Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Signs Sweeping Legislation to Curb Smoking, Tobacco Usage
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. Deidre, I just want to say, I really appreciate what you've told us about your own family, and I'm struck when you said it was just normal. What a sad reality that was, that for so many of us – it's true for my family too, that people thought it was normal to smoke and didn't know the dangers.
There was something particularly poignant, what you said about, you know, you thought it was normal and you'd look forward to going to the store to use the change to buy candy as a kid. We all got too used to it, and there's still too many people who think it's normal, and that's what today is all about, it’s breaking people out of that pattern and helping to save lives by saying, "We're not going to give in to smoking. We're not going to watch thousands of New Yorkers be afflicted every year and continue with the status quo,” because it's not acceptable.
So, Deidre, thank you for the stories that you've told us, but also thank you for your leadership. I know you saw some painful things, but you turned it into purposeful action to save other lives. Let's all thank Deidre for what she has done.
I want to be real clear. When we think about the health of New Yorkers, big tobacco is public enemy number-one. Doesn't get as much attention, maybe, as it used to, but unquestionably, we continue this fight against big tobacco because we're losing thousands of people that we don't need to lose. They're getting hooked on a very dangerous product, and it has to stop.
You know, we've talked about this before, there's a very cynical approach the big tobacco companies take. They are using the same exact kind of advertising they used 50 years ago to make people think it's cool to smoke or cool to smoke e-cigarettes. They're focused particularly on trying to hook young people. It's very cynical. It's all about greed.
We have these major multinational corporations that clearly know better but to make a buck, they're willing to hook a whole new generation of young people on tobacco products, and we have to stop them. We have to use every tool we have to disrupt this very cynical and deadly strategy. That's what today is all about.
There are tens of thousands of families in this city who have lost a loved one and understand that this is a horrible, horrible danger that must be confronted. We don't want any of those people to have died in vain. We want to make sure that we have learned, just like Deidre said, we've learned from what we saw in our own families, and I certainly saw it in my own family, that we do not accept the way things are. We're going to do things that change it, once and for all.
That's what today is about. That's what this extraordinary package of legislation is about that I think is going to ultimately save many thousands of lives of everyday New Yorkers.
So I want to thank everyone who's here, all of the good people sitting behind us for the good work they do. I want to thank – because, you know, a lot of people participate in making sure we stop folks from getting addicted and we help people who are addicted.
There's a lot of different people here who play a crucial role in trying to protect their fellow New Yorkers. I want to thank the Sheriff of New York City, Joseph Fucito. Thank you for your good work.
I want to thank our first Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Health, Oxiris Barbot, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. Thank you for being here. Of course, my thanks to Commissioner Mary Bassett who could not be here with us, but has been a leader in this field for a long time. I want to thank our Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, Lorelei Salas, for the crucial work Consumer Affairs does to fight against abuse of our laws when it comes to tobacco.
And again, the good people behind me represent both the health care profession, but also some of the leading organizations that fight big tobacco every day, including the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Cancer Society. Let's give them all a big round of applause and thank them.
Today I will be signing seven bills passed by the City Council, and these are life-saving bills. This is part of a bold goal we have set. We want to reduce the number of New Yorkers who smoke by 160,000 over the next three years. By the end of 2020, we want to see 160,000 fewer smokers in New York City. That's about a 17 percent decline in smoking in this city. It's a very ambitious goal, but one we believe is necessary and attainable.
The fact is, we know from the excellent work done in the previous administration that we have continued, that we can make steady progress in reducing the number of smokers. It has gone down substantially over the last 15 years, but there's still too many. Almost 900,000 New Yorkers still smoke, and that's way too many. So we know, with that many people smoking, we will be losing thousands of people every year. We can't let that happen. So we have to disrupt this broken status quo.
Here's a fact that really is sobering about the role that smoking plays in so many other deadly diseases. There are five leading causes of death in New York City. They are heart disease, cancer, pneumonia, diabetes, and stroke. What do all of these have in common? They all are linked to tobacco use. If someone uses tobacco, they increase their chances of suffering from one or more of these horrible ailments. That's why we have to use every conceivable tool to disrupt this situation. So let me go over what is being achieved in the legislation today.
First, we'll be cutting the number of people selling, the number of stores selling tobacco products. New York City, right now, has more tobacco retailers than we have Starbucks and pizzerias combined. Everywhere you turn, unfortunately, there's a store selling tobacco. That has to change. We will be, in particular, ending the sale of these dangerous products at pharmacies. This will be a total ban on the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies.
Think about that for a moment. Pharmacies, places where we go to get healthy. So it stands to reason, a place where you go for health care should not be selling you deadly products. We're going to stop that once and for all. Next, we'll be capping the number of tobacco licenses in each community to 50 percent of the current total, so we'll be cutting in half, in each community, the number of stores that sell tobacco.
Now, another big piece of this initiative is to raise the minimum price for cigarettes and tobacco products. Look, we know this works. We know that people make decisions based on their economic reality. By increasing the price, fewer and fewer people will choose to use these products. The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes will be $13.00, the highest price floor in the nation. We think that alone is going to reduce smoking by about six percent. We're also going to make sure that we go beyond just cigarettes to other tobacco products, which are just as dangerous and put a price floor on them as well. We'll be the first city in the nation to do that.
A third area that is crucial is requiring licenses for e-cigarette retailers. We want to use the same exact standards that we've held for traditional cigarettes. Look, e-cigarettes are new, they're not sufficiently regulated, they're not sufficiently understood, but they are dangerous, and here is an alarming statistic. Almost 16 percent of young New Yorkers are now using e-cigarettes.
So here's something that the health care community doesn't even fully understand yet, in terms of its dangers, and yet look at that. Almost one in every six young person in New York City is using this dangerous product. What's so sad is to see, again, those companies trying to hook young people. There's no company that can claim to be able to prove that e-cigarettes are fully safe, and yet they are merrily trying to hook more and more young people on them, which I think is the definition of cynical.
A final piece of this initiative is to do more to keep families safe from secondhand smoke where they live. Now, a couple of different pieces here. First of all, we will be banning smoking in common areas of buildings with three or more units. Previous law said more than ten units. We're now reducing that to three or more units. If you have a building of that size, we'll ban smoking in the common areas.
There's a requirement that smoking policies for buildings be clear. Look, a landlord has a right to permit smoking in the appropriate places in their properties, but New Yorkers have a right to know what the rules are and to make choices accordingly. A lot of New Yorkers, if they see that smoking is permitted anywhere in a building, may choose to go elsewhere, because they don't want to be in an environment where any smoking is permitted. Obviously, lots and lots of office buildings, hotels, etcetera, have gone to an entirely smoke-free policy, and a lot of people have come to expect it, so we want to make sure that every prospective tenant or anyone who will live in the building knows what they're getting into.
All of that is about reducing the number of people who smoke and making sure that the impediments to smoking are greater, that we challenge the horrible tactics of the tobacco industry. We also, though, want to take another step to make sure that anyone who is addicted, anyone who is suffering, gets the help they need. It's so important to let all New Yorkers know that we provide services for free, for anyone who needs it. If you are, sadly, hooked on tobacco and you want to end that horrible reality, you want to make a change, we want to help you do it. Anyone who is struggling with smoking or any kind of nicotine addiction, we have programs to help you stop smoking. We have ways to help you kick the habit and live a better life, including right here at Kings County.
It's such important work that people here do. I want to thank them all for that, because every single individual who kicks the habit can live a long and full life. So I want to remind you and ask my colleagues, please include this in your coverage. Anyone who needs help can call 1-8-6-6-NYQUITS. 1-866-NYQUITS, and they can get help for free.
This is a battle against big tobacco that has gone on for decades. A lot of the most important efforts to fight the tobacco industry have happened right here in New York City, and we are very proud of that. But we also know this industry will stop at nothing. They have not learned a single lesson. They will continue to be purveyors of death, which is tragic but true.
Today we send a very clear message. You are not welcome in New York City. We're not going to help you spread these dangerous products. We're going to do everything we can do to fight them. We're not going to keep watching as thousands die who shouldn't die. These laws I'm signing today are going to make a huge difference in people's lives, and I want to thank my colleagues from the City Council, who are so strong in their support, for taking this bold step to protect our fellow New Yorkers.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to turn to one of the leaders in this administration, who made sure that this strong package came together and came to fruition. My pleasure to introduce our Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Herminia Palacio.
Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, Dr. Herminia Palacio: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. As Deputy Mayor charged with the responsibility and the privilege of caring for the health of New Yorkers, as a physician, as a public health practitioner, and as a mom, I know there's nothing more important than taking on the plague of tobacco which destroys so many lives. Twelve-thousand New Yorkers die from smoking-related illnesses every year. You've heard the mayor describe the countless of other diseases that cause illness, related to tobacco.
Today, we're taking a series of bold and decisive steps to change that. I certainly want to thank our mayor for your leadership, the city council for your leadership, the public health colleagues that I have with me, and all of the advocates, for your partnership on this critical package.
We know that the environment people live in has an enormous effect on whether they use tobacco or not. New York City has almost 30 tobacco retail stores per square mile, a higher density than tobacco retailers in Philadelphia, Boston, or San Francisco. That's really important to know, because when young people are exposed to tobacco retailers – you've heard Deidre's story – when young people are exposed to tobacco retailers two or more times a week, they are 40 percent more likely to experiment with smoking, compared with peers who are exposed less often. This has a greater effect in kids living in neighborhoods that are poorer and home to a higher percentage of people of color, neighborhoods like East New York, Bed Stuy, and Jamaica, which have more than 200 retailers selling tobacco.
We know that once a young person starts smoking tobacco, it's harder to stop. Nearly nine out of ten smokers first tried smoking before they were 18. We, here in this administration, have a clear mission to ensure that every New Yorker in every ZIP code is able to live long and healthy lives. The package of legislation that Mayor de Blasio is signing today will help bring us closer to that vision.
Before I go, I want to give you advice that I always gave as a physician to my patients, one-on-one. If you are a smoker, the single most important thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking. If you aren't a smoker, whatever you do, please don't start. But as a long-time public health practitioner, and now as Deputy Mayor, I also want to say, you're not alone in this fight. This isn't just your responsibility to resist. The City of New York and all of the advocates you see here today, we're doing together everything we can to help you to help your families sustain a non-smoking life.
This is a really good day for the City of New York. This package of legislation that becomes law across the five boroughs will give New Yorkers a greater opportunity to make the healthy choice, the easy choice, so that they can live longer, healthier lives.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Dr. Palacio. I want you now to hear from my colleagues from the City Council. We are in Matthieu Eugene's district, and he understands firsthand what the horrible toll has been on – this one's good – the horrible toll of smoking has been on this community. He's also made a lifetime of working with young people, and understands the horrible effect of marketing campaigns focused on young people and what toll that has taken. So I want to thank you for your strong support for this legislation and we welcome your comments, Councilman Eugene.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Councilman. Thank you very much. And finally, I want you to hear from the Chair of the Health Committee. Council Member Corey Johnson's been outspoken on this issue, and he's spoken very powerfully, very personally, and this was a labor of love, for him, to move these important pieces through and provide a whole package that will change the reality of this city. It's my pleasure to introduce Council Member Corey Johnson.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Council Member. Okay, I want to just give everyone a little run a show here. We are going to first sign the seven bills and put them into law. Then I'm going to take questions about these bills and what it means for this city. Then I'm going to give you just a quick update on New York City's response to the tragedy in Texas, and then we will take questions on any and all topics thereafter. So if everyone would gather around who would like to gather around, let's start by making these bills law.
These bills are now all law. Thank you. Thank you.
Okay, so now we will take any questions on the legislation I just signed.
Question: When does the [inaudible] price go into effect? I've read online, and it seems like it goes into effect a year from now, like a month from now –
Mayor: Herminia and Oxiris, you want to speak to the – or is it Lorelei? Whoever's got it, speak to the timeline.
Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Lorelei Salas: The minimum price is go into effect on January 25th, 2018.
Mayor: January 25th. Dave.
Question: On the provision that [inaudible] before we get into the future on whether a smoking or a non-smoking building, if a building does [inaudible] when their leases expire and if they're smokers, will they have to move?
Mayor: It's a very good question. First, I will affirm, I'm not a lawyer, but I think the intention here in general is to have a going forward policy for anyone new coming into the building, certainly. I think it's a legitimate concern, but that's something that I think has to be worked through to figure out how to be fair to folks that are already in a building, and also maximize public health. So we have to balance that. We have to figure that out. Anyone want to speak to that? I don't think we have worked that out yet. So that's something we're going to have to work through, Dave.
Commissioner Salas: I'd just like to make a correction. Sorry, sir, but it's actually June 1st, 2018. That's when the minimum price is going to – sorry about that.
Mayor: There's it clarified. Andrew.
Question: Mayor, how do you avoid lower-income families that there might be nicotine addiction where because of the prince increase of cigarettes, they make a different choice, they cut food for their kids, or cut something healthy out of the budget?
Mayor: It's a painful reality that there is that danger, always, but look, Andrew, we know that raising prices does discourage smoking. We know it keeps people from smoking to begin with, which is a sacred goal. Everyone that we can keep away from this, every single life is altered if someone never smokes to begin with, because once they smoke, it's really hard to stop.
But my answer to you is, we have to figure out, based on what we've already seen historically, what works. If someone needs our help to quit, it's available, and it's available for free. You've seen the advertisements. We try and promote it very aggressively, and I ask you to as well. Anyone who is addicted, we can help them kick the habit. So that's my best answer for you. Because we're providing that help, and because we know it reduces smoking, it's the right choice to make. Anyone want to add?
Dr. Palacio: No, you got it.
Mayor: Questions on this? Rich?
Question: So, Mr. Mayor, do you think there's the possibly, that because of this much higher price, that elsewhere in the country, this will lead to the distribution of more illegal cigarettes?
Mayor: It's always a danger, and I'm sure the Sheriff and Commissioner Salas can speak to their enforcement efforts, which are going to intensify. Again, it's a proven approach that raising prices lowers the number of people who smoke. That we know for sure. There's always that danger of additional illegal activity, and what we have to do is do our best to disrupt that and intercept it at the same time, so we don't ignore that threat. We have to confront it. So, Sheriff, and then Commissioner Salas, you want to speak to what we'd do and what we will additionally be doing to disrupt the flow of illegal cigarettes?
Sheriff Joseph Fucito: The way that the Sheriff's office handles the enforcement attacks on cigarettes is as attacks. We have different enforcement components in place. We have regulatory inspections, so we have the right to inspect retail licensed locations. If we discover that they're selling untaxed cigarettes, and in part of the future legislation, OTP or other products, that product is subject to seizure. There can be criminal actions, which can be a misdemeanor or felony arrest, depending on the level of sales, and then there's a tax penalty which is probably five times the value of the tax that they should have paid.
We are very aggressive in following each one of these steps, and one of our biggest component pieces is long-term criminal investigations into the network. We're not looking to just grab somebody on the street corner selling cigarettes. The cigarettes are coming from out of state. They're coming from sources outside of New York City, and we look to intercept them outside of the state. We've been using relationships with law enforcement in Virginia, and we've been using special types of court orders to seize money and property from people who are running these networks, and we've been very successful. We're looking to expand on those efforts.
Mayor: I think a very important part of this, Rich, is we're going to be very vocal about the fact that additional enforcement is coming. Those penalties the sheriff just told you about, that's a real challenge for any store, especially a smaller store that's involved in illegal cigarettes. They're really going to have a very, very major penalty. I think the more that message gets across of just how aggressive the enforcement is, that that will discourage illegal activity.
Sheriff Fucito: Each carton of cigarettes that you sell that is untaxed, we give you a civil penalty of $100, and we're very aggressive in collecting that $100. After a certain period of time, if you don't pay it, the Sheriff actually will go back and take the money from your register. So we're very aggressive in following up on the tax penalties that need to be paid.
And if you're running a criminal network, we actually have more advanced mechanisms available to collect. We have federal orders that we've seized $200,000 plus property belonging to people who've been part of the network, and we're looking to also start auditing various businesses to make sure that they're in compliance with the cigarette price floor. That's very, very important. Currently, there's a floor now, and it's going to be raised. It's important for us to audit businesses.
So between a combination of audit, criminal enforcement, civil forfeiture, it's going to be very difficult and very painful to traffic in this type of tobacco and these type of things without paying the tax.
Mayor: Commissioner, you want to add?
Commissioner Salas: Yes, my agency has inspectors that are dedicated to enforcing these laws, and we are patrolling the streets. The moment that we identify these violations, we collaborate and work together with the Department of Finance and with the Sheriff's Office.
Mayor: Excellent. Thank you very much. Yeah.
Question: So [inaudible] $13.00 pack of cigarettes doesn't discourage a millionaire from smoking. It discourages a lower-income person from smoking. Have you thought about intensifying enforcement? As Eric Garner illustrated, I think, you're talking about –
Mayor: Couldn’t hear that last part – I heard the millionaire part, but what was the next sentence?
Question: You talk about intensifying enforcement. You're not – I think as Eric Garner illustrated, you're talking about bringing down intensively upon lower-income communities. How does that jive with the entire progressive messaging you're – if it's [inaudible] –
Mayor: First of all, I disagree with that analysis. Our first job, in public service, is to protect human life, and right now, cynically, a lot of folks are being attracted to tobacco products by millions and millions of dollars of advertising, and it's causing a profound danger to their lives. We're not going to stand idly by. We have to do everything we know that works.
Second of all, I would say that that price affects not just low-income people. I think it's fair to say that if you're a working-class person or a middle-class person, you're going to feel that price, and that's part of why we know it will have an impact on behavior.
As you just heard the Sheriff say three minutes ago, our focus is not on the little guy out on the street selling loosies. Our focus is on the people who are providing the supply, and also the stores that are very cynically selling these illegal cigarettes. So we're going after the big fish and we have a lot better tools to work with. The Sheriff's been very aggressive, and I commend him for that. Our focus is on where the bigger level of activity is.
Dr. Palacio: Might I add something?
Dr. Palacio: I would just echo what the Mayor has said, that first of all, these are tools. Reducing smoking and reducing tobacco is something that we know we have a lot of tools, we know what works. So this isn't as if we're making stuff up. We know what works, and this works. And make no mistake about it, you've heard about big tobacco. Big tobacco has targeted lower-income communities, and targeted the very communities that we're focusing our efforts to try to reduce the disproportionate burden of tobacco-related illnesses that communities face.
Mayor: One more point on this, before I'll turn to Dr. Barbot. Again, the question is, "What changes behavior?" If you know someone is doing something that could ultimately kill them, and you want to save them, you have to figure out what changes behavior. We don't have the legal ability to go into someone's home and watch them all day long and take a cigarette out of their mouth if they put a cigarette in their mouth. We don't have the ability to follow them to the bodega and say, "No, don't buy that." We have to use public policy tools that can make a difference.
What Dr. Palacio said is very important. We see a major industry spending huge amounts of money to hook, very cynically, to hook young people and to hook low-income people. We have to use whatever tool we have that can disrupt this. So price is one of those tools.
First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, DOHMH: One of the things that I wanted to add was that increasing the price is one of the best ways to help people stop, to make it harder to get access to cigarettes, but the other thing that's probably as important if not more important is helping people not to start. Adolescents are incredibly price-sensitive, and when you hear the Deputy Mayor say that nine out of ten New Yorkers who are smokers started before the age of 18, and when you hear the Council Member – who I really want to applaud for his work on this – say that once you get hooked on tobacco, it's really hard to get off, then I think to the Mayor's point, using all of the tools available to us, we need to make it especially difficult for children to start smoking, and so this is one of the best ways.
Councilman Corey Johnson: Mr. Mayor, may I add one thing?
Mayor: Please do.
Councilman Johnson: I just want to say, when the Bloomberg administration passed the Smoke-Free Air Act, which got rid of smoking in restaurants and in bars and in other places, people talked about how it was going to have horrible effects on the restaurant industry, how it wasn't fair on the number of people that it was targeting. When we raised the age that you could buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, people said that's not fair either. These are choices that we make because in the long run, the health care consequences, the cost of health care, the number of lives saved, the impact that secondhand smoke has, all of these things, every single one of them, they outweigh the other issues that are involved. There are no easy choices when we talk about public policy.
There are no easy choices when we talk about low-income individuals. Years of targeting and marketing that have gone after certain communities. But ultimately, as the Deputy Commissioner said, and as the Mayor said, and as the Deputy Mayor said, we know what works. This is not rocket science, in getting people not to start smoking, and these measures are going to save countless lives.
Mayor: Amen. Amen. Way back.
Question: Mr. Mayor, when you say ban cigarettes from pharmacies, are you talking about Rite Aid, Walgreens? When does that take effect?
Dr. Palacio: Right, so I have my list of when everything takes effect, because they are – let's see. That takes effect in January of 2018. Is that right?
Dr. Barbot: '19.
Dr. Palacio: '19.
Mayor: Okay, that's different. Let's clarify on this handy list.
Dr. Palacio: Yeah. '19.
Mayor: Your chart is too complex.
Dr. Palacio: Yeah. 2019.
Mayor: Okay. And that is – go ahead on the different type of pharmacies.
Dr. Barbot: I'll just add that currently the majority of pharmacies where one can purchase cigarettes tend to be the chain pharmacies, and we have many more independent pharmacies in New York City, but this would predominantly affect the chain pharmacies.
Mayor: January 1st, 2019 is the answer. Okay, all the way back I see a hand. There.
Question: Could you read out the list of the deadlines for each of the vendors?
Mayor: You mean when each is taking effect? Absolutely.
Dr. Palacio: Sure. Bill 1544, which is the other tobacco products tax and minimum price for – that takes effect June 1st, 2018. The portion of that bill that is specifically around the ban of delivery of cigarettes and tobacco products and e-cigarettes takes place January 25th, 2018. Bill 1547-a, which is around retail reduction, that takes place February 24th, 2018. Bill 1131, which is the pharmacy ban, which we were just discussing, again, January 1st, 2019.
Bill 1471-a, which is increasing the tobacco license fees to $200, that takes place effect on February 24th, 2018. Bill 1532-a, with respect to e-cigarette licenses, the license application period begins January 25th, 2018, and the license will be required to sell e-cigarettes as of August 23rd, 2018.
The bill that the Mayor described around requiring building owners to notify residents, that's Bill 1585-a, takes place August 28th, 2018, and the Bill 484-a, which is around smoke-free air in multiple dwellings, takes place February 24th, 2018.
Mayor: All right. Excellent. Yes, Gloria.
Question: Do you have any information about the average price of a pack of cigarettes today? Do you have any data on how many of these vendors will be expected to raise their price?
Mayor: First, average price today. Anybody got that?
Dr. Palacio: $10.50.
Councilman Johnson: Well, the minimum price is $10.50. The –
Question: Lower – the brands, I guess?
Councilman Johnson: It's for all cigarettes.
Mayor: It's pretty consistent, right?
Dr. Palacio: That's the minimum price.
Councilman Johnson: It's the minimum price for all cigarette products in New York City, is $10.50, and it's slated to go up to $13.
Kevin Schroth: The average price –
Mayor: Hold on. Will you introduce yourself, please?
Schroth: Kevin Schroth from the Department of Health. The average price, based on our most recent data, was $11.24.
Question: Do we have information about how high the sellers will be expected to
raise their price?
Dr. Palacio: Everyone will have to – by law – will be required to raise the price to a minimum of $13.
Question: Can you give me an idea of how many [inaudible] retailers –
Mayor: You want to know how many retailers qualify, in general. Do we have a ballpark?
Commissioner Salas: There are about 8,000 – over 8,000 cigarette retail dealers right now.
Mayor: 8,000, okay. Jillian.
Question: Can you explain a little bit more about how the licensing for e-cigarette retailers will work? I understand they don't have a license now, so who will be eligible to apply for a license and how many people, overall, do you expect to obtain licenses to sell e-cigarettes?
Dr. Palacio: I can start and then turn it over to the Commissioner. You're absolutely right. One of the critical pieces is that right now, they're not – none of them are required to have licensing, so this is very bold legislation, to require e-cigarette retailers to have licenses. People who are currently are selling e-cigarettes will be eligible to apply for a license within the window that the law sets out, and licenses will be capped at 50 percent of retailers.
Question: So the number of retailers who are selling the e-cigarettes now will not be able to grow, and will in fact be cut in half?
Dr. Palacio: Correct. Right.
Question: What happens to those businesses? It's been a booming business in some parts of the city. Half of those are going to have to close up shop everywhere. [Inaudible] has –
Commissioner Salas: Yes. The reduction is over time. But we will be spending quite a bit of time between now and the time that the application period starts educating businesses to make sure they know that they can avail themselves of this license, and that they apply for it.
Dr. Barbot: It's important to recognize that a lot of e-cigarettes are actually marketed by big tobacco company. These are not coincidental products that just appeared. This is a marketing to have a whole new wave of people who are addicted to nicotine.
Question: Do you have any sense – I know they don't have a license now, but do you have any sense how many e-cigarette retailers there currently are in New York City so we can understand what half of that would be?
Dr. Palacio: I don't think we have a –
Mayor: Anyone? No. We will do our best to get you an estimate, but we don't think we have it here. Okay, way back.
Question: I just wanted to clarify a figure I thought I heard about the – I think somebody said that the price change alone will only account for about six percent. I didn't know if that was a six percent reduction in smoking or six percent of the reduction will come from the price change alone.
Mayor: A fine mathematical question, so I will frame it, and then our experts will clarify. The overall goal is to reduce smoking by 160,000 New Yorkers by the end of 2020. That is a 17 percent reduction, basically, from the current 900,000 or so who smoke. You are correct. In my remarks, we refer to the price increase as being expected to reduce smoking six percent on its own. The important question – is it six percent of the 17, meaning, six percent of this goal will be achieved through the price and the remaining 11 percent through other measures? Or is it something else?
Schroth: The six percent is not a six percent of the 17 percent reduction. We expect this price change to result in a six percent reduction in smoking rate.
Mayor: You mean, of the 900,000 people base, we expect a six percent reduction in that just on the price change, alone. Is that right?
Schroth: That's correct.
Mayor: Okay, got that? Okay, good. Anna?
Question: How much in City funds for all of the bills is necessary, and also, do you guys have the total revenue from all these changes [inaudible]?
Mayor: Obviously, the purpose here – I want to state this as a matter of principle – the purpose here is to save lives and reduce smoking. It is not to generate revenue. In terms of cost, does anyone have that handy, what the cost impact? I mean, most of this is regulatory, so I don't think – that, per se, obviously doesn't come with a cost. The cost element is on the enforcement side, but obviously there's revenue that comes back from that as well. I don't know if the Sheriff has those numbers at his fingertips?
Sheriff Fucito: I have a simple number. For the OTP, we estimate about a million dollars. It's very hard to factor in the asset forfeiture, because that offsets the amount. Usually our work is pretty much revenue-neutral, so what it costs us to enforce, we bring back. So the staffing, it really doesn't factor into it.
Mayor: So we will get you specifics, but I think that last point from the Sheriff is really important. In general, with enforcement work done the right way, it does tend to be revenue-neutral.
Question: So I have a fiscal impact for the one that raises the floor of cigarettes, and it says for Fiscal '19, it's about four million dollars in revenue. Where do you want to put that money? Where are you going to put it?
Mayor: I think unless the Council members know something different, I don't think it's earmarked. Is it earmarked?
Councilman Johnson: No, it's not earmarked. We can't. It goes in the general fund, though 10 percent of that will go to public housing.
Question: [Inaudible] occurred to the Mayor what [inaudible 00:53:26] the revenue for, if he has any –
Mayor: Again, it goes into the revenue pool. Whatever the Council legislation focuses on in terms of specific uses, we're going to follow that. Anything beyond that goes into the general Treasury. Okay, yes, Willy.
Question: You talk about the urgency of this, and how it's about saving lives, but it took you over three years to move on this. [inaudible] before the mayoral primary. These measures presented to you for the first time in the recent [inaudible] two years ago. So why did you take so long to do this? Why are we here discussing this in an election year?
Mayor: Wow. I think there's obviously a misunderstanding on your part of how the legislative efforts work. It was presented a while back. There were a variety of things being considered, including a whole host of other things we were doing with major public safety ramifications and health ramifications and economic ramifications with the Council.
We also had to do a lot of work to get this legislation to be as effective and balanced as we thought it had to be. There's a lot of ideas represented to me initially that need more work. When we got to a point where it was everything we wanted to be and the Council was ready to pass it, that's when we moved. You'll remember that we announced the package many months ago. It went through the full legislative process, and we've come to this point.
This is – Lord knows – not about any electoral calendar. This is about legislative calendars and us making decisions about what we could move when, according to a whole host of priorities that we have. Yeah.
Question: Just so I understand, the ban on the smoking in multiple family dwellings, how was that figure there decided? Was it arbitrary?
Mayor: Well, I think on the multiple dwellings, it's about having the policy, also, so why don't we – Corey, why don't you speak to how that is being handled.
Councilman Johnson: It's not my bill, but my understanding is what the Mayor said earlier. I think we have to figure out, implementation-wise, what we do for people with existing leases and what we do for people that are coming into a building and signing a new lease for the first time.
One of the biggest issues that we've seen is that smoke inside of a building travels. It travels through air ducts, it travels under doors, and there is secondhand smoke, and there's also thirdhand smoke. Thirdhand smoke is when it's on something and someone touches that. That is really harmful to children who are in an apartment building, whose parents don't smoke, but somehow smoke is ending up in their apartment.
We have to balance this in an appropriate way, but the goal is to ensure that no one is smoking in public spaces in these buildings, because if you're smoking in a public space, it is getting inside an apartment. Doors are not impermeable. Underneath doors are not impermeable. So each building is going to have to figure out how they implement that policy, but I think the legislation was structured in a way to give some flexibility on how we deal with that, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that people are not smoking in stairwells, in lobbies, and in other places in buildings which is going to affect anyone in the vicinity. Smoke travels up and smoke travels through air ducts and under doorways.
Mayor: Okay. Juliet.
Question: Just adding to that, will this apply in public housing? And how will it be enforced?
Mayor: Say again, I'm sorry.
Question: Will this apply in public housing, and how will it be enforced?
Mayor: Well, in public housing – I'll start and my colleagues can jump in – as you know, in the previous federal administration, the HUD secretary issued new guidelines for public housing that we're in the process of working with HUD to implement, and that certainly refers to all the common areas, so that's its own initiative that is underway. I don't know – obviously public housing, in general, all the units are well over, all the buildings are well over three units, so that's a fait accompli, but I don't know if there's any other specific reference in the legislation in terms of adding rules around NYCHA.
Councilman Johnson: I mean, this is really going to come down to what the administration in Washington D.C. wants to do with what Secretary Castro put forward before he left office. Ben Carson was a neurosurgeon. That would give me a lot more faith in him in other areas, but that has not happened, and the HUD regional director is someone who I don't really understand her background in public housing.
The Mayor has to be more generous than I do when it comes to dealing with these folks. I don't feel a great deal of confidence, given what we've seen out of this administration, in rolling back things that the last administration had done. But ultimately, the NYCHA policy comes down to HUD rule changes, so someone should ask HUD what they plan on doing on the previous administration's proposal.
Question: So this does not apply to NYCHA?
Councilman Johnson: No. This does not apply to NYCHA.
Question: So then who enforces? Feds would enforce this, not city –
Mayor: No. The NYCHA policy, which again, is not yet fully implemented, we would be working to implement through NYCHA building management. But that's something – I think the Council Member's making a good point – will it be the same policy? We don't know that answer right now. We're going to act on the assumption it is. That's the standing policy right now. But it's a whole different approach, which is going to involve having to educate folks in public housing that this change is going to be required and then we're going to use the enforcement capacity of our existing NYCHA staff to do that.
Other questions? Rich?
Question: Mayor, did you ever smoke, and number two, the City seems to be tightening restrictions on tobacco at the same time it's loosening strictures on marijuana. Is there any message there that [inaudible] –
Mayor: Well, let me separate the two questions. No, in terms of my own life, sadly, my dad smoked a lot, and I watched it, and it had a horrible impact on his health. I have two older brothers. None of us have ever smoked a cigarette, not a single one, because we saw the horrible destructive decline that our dad went through because of smoking. It was not pretty to watch. And the addictive reality, you know, if you have someone addicted in your life and you watch it every single day, it's a painful advertisement to never go down that road, so I have literally never put a cigarette to my lips and I never will.
On the second question, on the marijuana – look, in terms of marijuana, what we've said is low-level possession is not subject to arrest, but it is still, of course, subject to summons. So there's still a penalty. We came to the conclusion that arrest was the wrong approach, but there's still clearly a penalty, and for smoking marijuana, there is arrest still. For dealing, there's arrest. I think it was a good change, in terms of criminal justice reform, but by no means is it a free pass. The law is still the law on marijuana. Yes, Willy?
Question: So many jurisdictions are making marijuana legal in this country, and you're looking for ways to fund mass transit. Why not propose making marijuana legal in New York State and [inaudible] fund [inaudible]?
Mayor: Just, I'm not comfortable, and I know the leadership of the NYPD is not comfortable that it would be the right thing to do. I mean, you could make money off of all sorts of things. That doesn't make it the right thing to do. I would be very concerned about negative health impacts of legalization. I'd be very concerned about what it would mean in terms of public safety.
We have more and more information coming in from the places that have instituted the policy, and I've said consistently, "We should look at that information, we should see if it tells us something." But right now, I'm not convinced it's the right way to go. Yes?
Question: Mayor, in terms of banning cigarettes at pharmacies, you can buy a six-pack of beer at a Duane Reade in the city. Any idea of looking to regulate that in the future? Obviously [inaudible] to be 100 percent certain.
Mayor: You mean, changing our current regulation?
Question: Yeah, yeah. I mean, would you ever consider, perhaps, banning the sale of alcohol in pharmacies?
Mayor: In pharmacies? I had not even considered that. I mean, obviously we have to figure out what we think is going to work, and part of what led to these changes, both in terms of the increase in the price and the ban on the pharmacy sales, was a recognition that they both would disrupt how people, particularly young people, are getting hooked on cigarettes. I don't have enough sense of if there's any such parallel reality for alcohol. I just don't have that understanding of the situation.
Okay, let me see if there's anything else on this topic, on the bills we signed today. Let's see if there's any other questions from the media. Going once. Going twice. Okay.
Let me go quickly to an update, just a brief update, on the efforts to help folks in Texas. I know everyone here has seen the images. It's absolutely terrifying to look at what's happened to millions of people in Texas, and it's brought back, for all of us, very bad memories of Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy was horrific. We lost dozens of New Yorkers. The damage – we're living with to this day. But this flooding in Texas is extensive in a way that we never experienced. It's over many, many cities, and people's lives have just been torn apart.
So first of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Texas. Look, we here in New York City, we've been through something like this, and we understood that lots of people came here to help New York, from all over the country, after Sandy. By the way, after 9-11, after our worst tragedy, people came from all 50 states to help in the rescue and recovery efforts. So we believe in helping our fellow Americans when they're in need, and I think it should be a universal standard, by the way. I think our federal government should respond to every disaster the same way, with equal willingness to help Americans in every part of the country, and we need to help each other. Cities and states have to be there for each other.
Given what we have been through, New York City has sent 120 of our emergency personnel down to Texas, from the NYPD and FDNY and EMS, and I particularly want to thank Commissioner Joe Esposito of the Office of Emergency Management, who's been in the lead of a lot of these efforts, helping to make sure they happen. I'll tell you, for folks who are struggling down in Texas – and the authorities are struggling too - they're doing everything they know how to do, but imagine how stretched thin the first responders in Texas are right now. It's really important they get additional help.
So the team has been sent down. They left at 5:00 am on Sunday morning and included the Urban Search and Rescue Team that we have here. They are just about now reaching the affected area, and in position to help Texans in need. We will continue to respond to any requests for help from Texas to help people through this absolutely horrible event. I've seen one estimate that said this was the kind of storm that happens only once every 500 years. I saw another estimate that said once every thousand years, and it's an absolutely horrific event. I want everyone in Texas to know, New York City will stand by you. That effort is now being deployed.
I also want to say to all New Yorkers who want to help people in Texas, we encourage you to donate via the Red Cross, at redcross.org, or you can text the word "Harvey," H-A-R-V-E-Y, to 90999. Again, text "Harvey" to 90999 if you want to make a donation to the relief efforts in Texas. With that, we'll take questions about that and any other topics. Yes, Mara.
Question: Two questions. First one is about the efforts [inaudible] how often does New York City send such aid to [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’ll start. Just one quick point before turning it over to Joe. You know, it’s obviously very important if we get a request. You’ll remember when Buffalo went through that horrible storm, I think it was last year, we sent up teams to help them out. It really depends on where the need is and if a state or city doesn’t have the equipment they need that we do have available. And let’s face it, if people need help, we can deploy it very, very quickly. We all think back to the horrible tragedy of Katrina. It took a long time for federal resources to move. The irony is that cities and states can often move their resources a lot quicker. So, when we get a request that’s the most important factor that I know of. But go ahead, Joe.
Commissioner Esposito: Well, you saw our team. Our Urban Search and Rescue Teams, they are federally funded. We’re one of 28 teams nationwide. A portion of all 28 teams, right now, have been deployed to Texas. But the New York team – Task Force 1 – we go out about an average of once a year.
Question: [Inaudible] federal government?
Commissioner Esposito: Yeah, the – FEMA would activate the Urban Search and Rescue Teams. It’s a rotating schedule and, you know, depending on the schedule is when you go and what the event is and where it is. But we go out about once a year.
Question: [Inaudible] assault on a social worker [inaudible] –
Mayor: I will be straightforward with you – I don’t know all the details of the incident. I did speak to him this morning. He was in good spirits, obviously, very troubled by what he went through but in good spirits, will be getting additional medical care soon. He’ll need surgery. And I assured him that we’re going to do everything we can to make sure he gets any help he needs.
But that’s under investigation right now, in terms of the details of the incident. Anna.
Question: A couple months ago I asked you if you would ever consider a [inaudible] tourist [inaudible] fare on the Staten Island Ferry. I went out and asked several tourists if they would be willing to pay that fare and every one of them said yes. Given that it could raise millions of dollars which could be used for mass transit or whatever, would you consider maybe more officially looking into this?
Mayor: Yeah, look, it has certainly been considered before, Anna. And the answer I’ve gotten when I’ve raised it to the folks in different agencies is that it’s not as easy to do as one would think and that that’s a real factor. If something is too cumbersome or if it comes with other costs it may not be as worth it as common sense would make you think.
But of course I’m open to it. If we can figure out a way to do it, I certainly would prefer to have the revenue while making sure that nothing we do changes the sanctity of it being for free for New Yorkers. So, I will ask OMB, in particular, to look into and see if something’s changed and if there is a way that we could actually reach that. Yes, Jillian?
Question: Mayor, we had a story this weekend about Commissioner O’Neill overturning the verdict of an administrative trial for an NYPD member. The judge has found this person guilty of some kind of misconduct. The Commissioner overturned that [inaudible] not guilty of misconduct.
I’m curious of what you think of the ability of the Commissioner to do something like that, whether if you have a sense of if it happens regularly or not, and whether you believe [inaudible] about this even if it’s not released in the officer’s name but a description of the kind of conduct or why it was overturned ought to be made public. I know 50-a is likely [inaudible] I’m also curious what you’ve done specifically to try to [inaudible].
Mayor: Yeah. We made an effort in this last legislative session to change 50-a. Not shockingly because these kinds of laws were put in place at the behest of some of the unions and the unions have particular sway with the Republican State Senate – it was not shocking that we couldn’t get it done this time.
I think in the next year or so we’re going to have a very different situation in Albany and I think we’ll be in a position to get it done then. And as you’ve heard this issue first came up just as Commissioner Bratton was about to leave office. And both he and Commissioner O’Neill feel very strongly we need to change 50-a and allow for this disclosure, as do I. It will happen. I feel this very strongly but I think that change in Albany is going to be the crucial element of that.
In terms of the Commissioner, I have tremendous faith in his judgement. I think he’s an extraordinarily fair human being. I think he is a stickler and he is adamant about the members of the NYPD following the rules and following the laws. The facts I have here is that at least 80 percent of all cases result in specific disciplinary measures which is a very, very substantial number. That being said, you know, the Commissioner – I think it’s absolutely appropriate the Commissioner have the ability to make a final decision and sometimes he may differ with the recommendation given to him.
I don’t think it’s common. I think it’s pretty rare. And I would also note that the CCRB and NYPD increasingly are coming to the same conclusions. The number of cases has gone done. The number of complaints against officers has gone down. It’s at a 15-year low.
But the agreement on the specific discipline has been at the point of 63 percent now. So, almost two-thirds of all cases. So, I’m very comfortable with the way things are being handled.
Question: Can you give me a sense of what kind of efforts are being made around 50-a? You know, are you talking – what are you doing up in Albany [inaudible]?
Mayor: Our Albany office was working on it from the beginning of the legislative session and we engaged the three leadership elements in Albany throughout to see what it would take and it became clear that there was not a pathway. I mean this was a very limited Albany session as you know, meaning a lot of important issues were not addressed and I am not happy about that but that’s the truth.
We believed that it was an important moment because there’s more and more interest in that kind of transparency. But the partisan politics are not shocking. And again, I’m quite convinced the situation is going to change very soon and we’ll have an opportunity to get it done. Rich.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I wonder if we could get some details on what it is the Urban Search and Rescue team will be doing, what kind of –
Question: – skills do they have? What kind of equipment do they have that would help the situation down there?
Commissioner Esposito: Well, again, it's a federal asset funded by them. They get federal training. We train together, police, fire, EMS, and naturally, confined space rescues, water rescues, which would be the major part of their effort down in Texas, collapsed structures, which you'll have some of that, and also hazmat. They'll bring boats. They went down there with tractor-trailers, boats, all kinds of equipment to bring down there. They're self-contained. Generators – they'll be able to live in tents close to the area and deploy.
Mayor: Okay. Juliet?
Question: Mr. Mayor, have you decided on your criteria or your personnel for the statue commission, and will you be marching in the Columbus Day Parade?
Mayor: I will definitely be marching in the Columbus Day Parade. The parade is a moment to express our pride in our Italian heritage, for all of us who are Italian, and for others to recognize the contributions Italian-Americans have made to New York City and to the whole country, so I'm absolutely comfortable continuing to march. I have marched for years in that parade.
On the commission, Juliet, you should expect, hopefully in a matter of days, that we'll be able to announce the names on the commission. I think there's been a bit of a rush to judgment. I'd like to address this preemptively. Assuming what such a commission does, you know, we've said very clearly we're going to name a group of New Yorkers who have real expertise in considering these issues. They're issues being thought about all over the country.
We'll put together a group of people. They will listen to ideas and concerns from their fellow New Yorkers. They will determine a set of criteria by which we'll consider these different monuments on City-owned land and make proposals to me about how to handle specific situations. The options – I think there's been a misunderstanding of what options could be utilized.
A commission looking at its criteria could say, "Here's a situation where we don't think anything specifically needs to happen." They could also say, "Here's a situation where we think there should be a plaque added to provide some of the history and provide some of the balance in understanding what happened with this particular individual and this particular history." In some cases, and this has certainly been true with some of the Confederate memorials, they may say, "We think something is appropriate for a fundamental change or removal."
There's lots of different options for addressing things, and we want a single, thoughtful process. Everyone's got a different viewpoint on this. We want a thoughtful, careful process that that commission can do. But there's many ways to address things, and I want to note, I've been around the country to different national historical Sites.
I think the National Park Service does a really good job of presenting complex history. They don't tend to sugarcoat it. They tend to provide some of the things that may be considered, today, positive and heroic, and also some of the things that may be a problem. So there's more than one way to address this. I don't think anyone should leap to any conclusions. They should see how this commission does its work and what it presents, and then that's the right time for people to think about it and make conclusions. Juliet, hold on.
Question: Would you be the ultimate decider, then, on who gets the plaque, or what gets –
Mayor: Look, we have to figure out that too. I'm ready to be, but we have to look at the laws and we have to look at what City agencies are involved, and obviously we want to work closely with the Council. But in terms of how it – this is uncharted territory. Over the years, Juliet, there's been specific concern raised about one or another statue or monument, but there was never a process, and I think that was the mistake.
You can't do this as a series of one-offs, and I think what's happened around the country on the Confederate flags, the Confederate memorials, that's one piece of the equation, and that was especially about people deeply hurt by having their state flag still have Confederate symbols, or have a Confederate monument on their state capitol grounds as part of their own government. I think that's one type of thing.
I think the other types of monuments are different. Each needs to be looked at in its own way. But it has to go through a systematic process, and part of that is even to figure out, who are the different pieces of the equation governmentally who would appropriately make such decisions? Yeah.
Question: [Inaudible] about that. There have been thoughts about the statue of Vladimir Lenin, which is on the Lower East Side. There's a statue –
Mayor: There's a statue of Vladimir Lenin?
Question: On the Lower East Side.
Mayor: That's news to me.
Question: I was wondering, do you think that perhaps he, or rather, the statue should be considered for removal?
Mayor: Okay, first, in all my days of being in New York City, I have never heard of there being a statue of Vladimir Lenin on the Lower East Side. It may be true. I've literally never heard of that before in my life. Anyone ever heard of that before? Vladimir Lenin? That's a new one.
Any statue could be looked at, and that would obviously be one too. A very complex figure in history, and it's easy to say things that came of his work that ended up being very bad, but the bottom line is, I'm not here to judge each one. I want there to be a process where any New Yorker can say, "Hey, we'd like this looked at. Here's our concern," and it gets put through a process that is consistent, because we can't do this as a series of one-off and eye of the beholder situations. We have to try and come up with some kind of policy that makes sense. Willy.
Question: There was a departmental investigation before that found that members of your administration were inappropriately using personal emails for City business. It said that your [inaudible] email [inaudible] and send it to your personal email address 1,850 times. [Inaudible] appeared 1,293 times. [Inaudible] Talk to us about your use of personal email for City business and what you are going to do to change it.
Mayor: First, I have not read the report. Second, my understanding of those large numbers is was any time that someone put my email address in an email they were sending, not necessarily an email that I sent. The fact is, what I've tried to do over years is get people off my personal email if there's any kind of City business. Some people email me and say, "Please call." Some people email me and say, "I've got a event I'd like you to come to." I send those over to the government side, so that immediately puts it on government email, but I also try, consistently -- I'm sure I have not done it every single time – but I try, consistently, to tell people, "Please go over to my government email," if it is anything involving official business.
I'll keep doing that. The vast majority of my emails on my personal email are personal or political, not governmental, and also, any time someone does email me on personal email, and it's not very often, but if they did on an official matter, that is FOIL-able and disclosable. That's the bottom line. I would encourage everyone to just keep telling people, "Go over to the government email." Please.
Question: Have you used, apart from emails you've received in your personal account, have you used your personal email to send or respond on City business regarding security?
Mayor: Again, what I've tried to do consistently is tell people – and that could be a response, that's eye of the beholder – but respond to them and say, "Use this other email," and literally CC it with the other email. I want to do anything governmental on the government email. I still can't stop people from sending me something to my personal email, but what I've tried to do consistently, and I think it's worked overwhelmingly, is get people to move over to the government email. Marcia.
Mayor: Louder, please?
Question: I have two questions having to do with your monument commission. Number one, in the last few days, numerous numbers of Italian-Americans have said, "We don't want you to go out here on Christopher Columbus [inaudible]." I wonder if you've had any thoughts about pardoning him, exempting him from the route because of this groundswell of public opinion.
Mayor: Marcia, I'm Italian-American. I'm a very proud Italian-American. You know that in the first year in office, I went to my grandfather and grandmother's hometowns. My heritage is very, very important to me. I understand why people are so concerned. I want to put this in perspective. When my grandparents came here over 100 years ago, Italians suffered a tremendous amount of discrimination in this country, and that went on for quite a while, and things have gotten better, but there's still a lot of horrible stereotypes of Italians that are portrayed every day in our media.
So I think, for a lot of people, they look for sources of pride, and we were all taught that Columbus was a source of pride because of his achievements. As I said the other night in the debate, there's some things to be proud of, there's some things to not be proud of. But I understand, Marcia, why so many people feel so deeply about it. My answer is, to everyone of every background, is the same answer. You brought up an important issue around anti-Semitism last week. It's one single standards needs to be achieved, as best we can, to look at all of these situations.
To folks who are concerned, I would say don't pre-judge. We haven't even named the commission. The commission's going to look carefully at these issues. As I said, they have a range of things that they could suggest in any given situation. They could say, "We don't think any further action is needed. Leave something the way it is." They could say, "Add a plaque to clarify some of the history that's important to know." They could say something isn't appropriate anymore. But we should not pre-judge. I think we need to let the commission do its work.
Question: [Inaudible] second Columbus statue –
Mayor: Just louder, please?
Question: The second Columbus statue is in – the Parks Department put up the statue, actually. It's on a Supreme Court building. Would that be also subject to review?
Mayor: Again, I'm not here to determine what's subject to review or not. I want to make that very clear. We will have a commission. The commission will invite comments and concerns from New Yorkers and then we'll figure out how to address the overall situation, so I said it to you guys last week, I'll say it again. I'm not going to go item by item, because it's not what I'm going to do.
The commission has to figure out what will be looked at and what the criteria will be going forward, and the best way to do that is to invite New Yorkers to bring forward their concerns, like they would with any other public process. This is going to be out in the open and the most important part of this, Marcia, is that the commission has to come up with some kind of common standard, because otherwise it's just individuals trying to make it up, you know, and applying their own individual values, and that's not how we do things in terms of government. We have to try and figure out something that's an effective, universal standard for how we're going to approach this going forward in New York City.
Question: Some people are saying that if you march in the Columbus Day Parade, they might protest or [inaudible] because they're upset about your position.
Mayor: You know, no, I'm never dissuaded by criticism or opposition. Anyone who can't handle criticism or opposition shouldn't be Mayor of New York City. The fact is, I would ask my fellow Italian-Americans who are concerned to step back for a moment and recognize that we haven't even named the commission which is going to look at any and all monuments around the city where there's any concern and come up with criteria. It's not time to judge something that hasn't even begun.
People have every right to talk about their pride, and I understand that pride and I support that pride, but I think that it is not fair to rush to judgment when the commission has not even begun its work. Yeah?
Question: [Inaudible] do you support that [inaudible]?
Mayor: I don't support it because I don't know enough about the issue to begin with, and it certainly has not been brought to me by the elected officials who represent the area as a cause for concern. So I'm always happy to learn more, but no, I do not see a specific reason for that lawsuit at this moment. Yes, Gloria.
Question: Mr. Mayor, we're talking a lot about Albany, [inaudible], and the [inaudible] which you seem to be pinning a lot of your hopes on. You're predicting a change. What are you going to do to make sure that happens? That didn't go over so well the last time, so are you going to change anything about your strategy? Can you tell us anything about it?
Mayor: Well, I'm not sure I'd agree with the concept it "didn't go over so well." That depends on the eye of the beholder. I think a lot of Democrats welcomed the notion of support. Look, this is something that will be lead by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and I'll be ready to help them in whatever way they deem appropriate. Right now, I'm thinking about this year's election. We'll worry about next year, next year.
But beyond anything I do, Gloria, I think we see a number of factors coming together. The anger and frustration caused by the policies of Donald Trump are having a very big impact on the political environment of this state. Further changes in politics locally and demographics on the state are having a big impact. The State Assembly is one seat away from its all-time highest number of Democratic Assembly members. You've seen what's happened in the presidential votes consistently in the state. It's always just been a matter of time before the Senate changes, and I think 2018 is going to be a very strong year for the Democrats. Last call, go ahead.
Question: Last week, the Bronx Borough President came out and endorsed [inaudible]. He's been a vocal critic of you in the past. Can I ask you how you got his support, how that happened?
Mayor: You know, I always believe people can learn more and change their views. Look, Borough President Diaz and I have a long history. We worked together on many things for years. Yes, there have been some differences since I've been Mayor, but there's also been areas of agreement, and we had a series of conversations, including during Bronx week, when we had City Hall up in the Bronx, and we found more common ground. I think – and you can ask him this – but I think he saw in the effort to bring all the City agencies to the Bronx, the kind of thing he wanted to see more of, and that's going to be a recurring thing if the people choose me again for another term. We're going to be doing that every year. I think he appreciated that a lot.
We had some good conversations and we got to some common ground, and he was very helpful yesterday up at [inaudible], and I really appreciate his support.