This Week’s Ask The Mayor With Brian Lehrer: From Storm Unpreparedness To Running For Governor


Each Friday, Mayor Invoice de Blasio calls in to the Brian Lehrer Present on WNYC for an Ask the Mayor phase, a dialog that every one New Yorkers are invited to hitch. Here is a transcript, in addition to the audio, of this week’s phase, the place de Blasio is requested about storm (un)prepardness, the choice to supply no distant studying possibility for the college yr, a controversial flood wall plan within the East Village, and his potential run for governor in 2022.

Brian Lehrer: Here is a little bit behind-the-scenes story about our weekly Ask the Mayor phase. There wasn’t alleged to be one this week, as a result of the mayor was taking an extended Labor Day weekend, truthful sufficient. Till we obtained hit as exhausting as we did by Ida, and the mayor got here again to work. So guess what, now it is time, as regular, on Fridays within the 11 o’clock hour for our weekly call-in, my questions and yours for Mayor Invoice de Blasio. Good morning Mr. Mayor, thanks for including us again to your calendar when you realized you needed to work.

Mayor Invoice de Blasio: Thanks, and we have all been via loads the previous few days, however New Yorkers as soon as once more actually actually confirmed extraordinary energy and resiliency coping with yet one more problem on prime of COVID. It is nearly unbelievable what number of issues have been thrown at us, however folks preserve preventing via and I hope everybody’s gonna get a break this weekend as a result of all New Yorkers deserve it.

Lehrer: Do you’ve any replace on the fast restoration from the storm, together with individuals who’ve misplaced their properties or their properties have turn out to be uninhabitable or the rest?

de Blasio: Here is the broad strokes, a very powerful and the saddest half is we have final 13 New Yorkers. The storm has proven us ferocity and a pace that’s simply completely breathtaking and it is made very clear, we’ll have to vary numerous issues we do, however when it comes to of us displaced we have truly had a really small variety of folks—final quantity I’ve is, fewer than 100 households had requested housing as a result of they had been displaced.

Learn Extra: Why NYC Was So Unprepared For Hurricane Ida’s Flash Flooding

What we have seen is numerous property injury, significantly the basements, each properties and shops. That is been the factor that we’re getting essentially the most and people are digging out proper now and our Division of Sanitation is making a unprecedented effort… yesterday, as we speak and thru subsequent week, to make sure that of us get additional assist, to get all of the refuse out of the best way so that folks do not should take care of it they usually can get within the apply, , within the course of, I ought to say, of getting again on their ft.

One other actually vital reality for all of your listeners, Brian, alternate aspect parking is suspended all the best way till Thursday, September ninth. So the subsequent time it is again is Thursday, September ninth, due to the disaster of the storm after which in fact Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah.

Lehrer: For these people who find themselves having housing issues, even when it is a comparatively small quantity, will FEMA funds, Federal Emergency Administration Funds, be obtainable to renters or owners with out flood insurance coverage, and if that’s the case how can folks get that reduction if ?

de Blasio: So to begin with, for anybody within the fast scenario that they do not have a spot to remain, the town works with the American Pink Cross to get folks to lodges, in order that assist is offered instantly, our Emergency Administration Workplace coordinates that with the Pink Cross, anybody in that scenario ought to name 311 instantly.

Now we’re working proper now with FEMA, and naturally the FEMA Administrator, Deanne Criswell was our personal emergency administration commissioner till only a few months in the past, so she’s been very, very useful. We’re working with FEMA to maximise reduction—there’s reduction obtainable for retailer homeowners that we would like them to have the ability to entry, there’s reduction obtainable for owners. I must get higher solutions on renters, however anybody with these questions can name 311, and as we’re getting updates from the federal authorities about what they are going to make obtainable, we can information folks and assist them. For any retailer homeowners, our Small Enterprise Companies Division helps them with every part from accessing the federal funds to getting their insurance coverage claims to getting authorized assist no matter they want.

Lehrer: So for individuals who’ve had flood injury and clearly that is much more folks than those that’ve truly turn out to be quickly homeless in consequence, for individuals who have had flood injury however do not have flood insurance coverage, you are saying begin by calling 311?

de Blasio: That is proper, for the federal assist that—once more, we have had a declaration from the White Home which is essential—we now as to make sure that everybody who can get entry to it will get it. So the easiest way to begin is by calling 311 after which they will join you to the oldsters who’re working… the cash shouldn’t be obtainable immediately, however we wish to get it to folks as shortly as doable clearly, and that is the very best path to register your want. We now have numerous owners with basements flooded, numerous shops have misplaced the stock of their basements as a result of that is the one place they should retailer something. So we wish to try to assist every of them to get the utmost obtainable assist obtainable to them.

Lehrer: Right here is Laura calling from Texas, however mentioned she labored with NYCHA growing a storm plan after Sandy

Laura: Hello mayor, I labored with the New York Metropolis Housing Authority after Sandy, and we developed a very wonderful plan along side the town large stormwater administration, that was designed to deal with and accommodate an eight-inch rain occasion, just like the one which has devastated the town. I am questioning what your ideas are in regards to the alternative to implement a challenge like this now that the acute rain occasions have gotten extra frequent and have impacted the town on this approach?

de Blasio: Laura, thanks for the work you probably did to assist us and I feel you are pointing us in the appropriate route. Look, it is essential to make the juxtaposition with Sandy, as a result of in Sandy, as and all New Yorkers know, that was an occasion that basically damage folks in coastal areas. After which since then, we have now been implementing a $20 billion resiliency plan with numerous options which can be already in place, and Brian, a few of them properly just like the Rockaway boardwalk — 5.5 miles that can also be a resiliency barrier now. Loads of that is in place numerous is being constructed, however what’s so putting about what occurred on Wednesday evening, not solely was it the report rainfall in the whole historical past of New York Metropolis the whole recorded historical past that one hour was essentially the most rainfall we ever had an hour by loads. However the affect was not primarily within the coastal areas of the oldsters who suffered essentially the most, the oldsters we misplaced had been removed from the coastal areas. So this can be a totally different actuality and I feel the actual fact is, it calls upon us now to begin adapting to rather more excessive climate. I hate to should say this however now the acute climate is turning into the norm, we set two data in lower than a month for essentially the most rainfall in a single hour and the primary report was unhealthy. The second report was astoundingly unhealthy.

So I feel it’ll come right down to a mix of an enormous quantity of change in infrastructure, and, and hopefully lastly getting the federal assist to do it on a large scale we’re speaking, , lots of of billions of {dollars} over time. However second, however I talked about this morning in my press convention, we’ll should orient folks to a lot totally different approaches to storms, issues like obligatory evacuations and journey bans, which can be enforced. These have been rarities previously, however I concern now they will turn out to be extra regular and we’ll should say in the beginning of an incident like this to organize for one thing like that. After which the second we see, God forbid, the flip within the climate to activate these sorts of plans. As a result of the climate now could be so unpredictable. We simply wouldn’t have the large long run structural answer that we will attain proper now, however at the very least we will get folks out of hurt’s approach in a really aggressive style.

Lehrer: So whenever you discuss journey bans, are you speaking about shutting down the subways, earlier and on a extra frequent foundation than has been completed previously? Do you suppose we have been too conservative about that?

de Blasio: I concern we have now… I have been via a few these. And let’s hasten so as to add the state runs the MTA, they make that decision. And I, , like so many people for many years assume the subways would preserve going it doesn’t matter what. And we have had now, in fact… now we’re seeing with this very sudden form of climate, the place we have now to consider when are these instances. Now I’d by no means do it flippantly, and I am certain that the state would by no means do it flippantly. However what is evident… with this unprecedented form of rain that overwhelmed the MTA system, had we had extra of a projection of it, we might have mentioned, ‘Okay, we all know at this hour we’ll cease… , make your plans, prepare.’ So once more you are listening to instantly, Brian, a few of that is simply the unknown and the sudden shifts in climate, the form of raging climate we’re seeing recently. However I feel if we are saying to folks, the day earlier than or the morning of, put together for a journey ban potential… know that at any second we could must shut the subways and we have to inform folks to get off the roads. You understand, modify to the very best of your means, your schedule, realizing it could possibly be as early as no matter time.

Learn Extra: After Deadly Storm, NYC Will Make use of Journey Bans And Basement Evacuations

And equally with evacuations. If we’re saying to folks, on this case, let’s not simply discuss in regards to the conventional evacuation routes of coastal areas, however on this case we now know we have now a special form of downside with basement flats. We all know a number of the areas the place they’re predominant. We’re saying to folks early, together with with cellular phone alerts, that are very efficient, put together for the potential of evacuation from this level on. So everyone seems to be listening to that we could get them organized out. After which we might ship, if God forbid got here to that second, we might ship first responders out to go door to door actually getting folks out. It is a paradigm shift, we’ll have to speak a form of urgency and a form of rigor that has usually not been the case previously, however now I feel goes to be rather more the norm.

Lehrer: Query by way of Twitter, from a listener on Staten Island. Listener writes: Does the mayor nonetheless assist the event of the BJs on Staten Island on wetlands after this week’s storm?

de Blasio: We had metropolis corridor in your borough in Staten Island final week, and truly a number of the of us locally came to visit and had a dialog with me and a few of our commissioners. Let’s be clear this can be a personal software… I do not assist it or reject it, it is one thing that was put ahead privately. However up to now, our consultants have checked out it and mentioned they do not see a menace of flooding, however I requested them to return and reassess. And clearly these occasions now add one other factor to evaluate to see if there’s something there that must be dealt with. Earlier environmental affect didn’t recommend it, however I wish to ensure that it is hermetic.

A slide from the city's previous plan showing a rendering of a new Delancey Street Bridge into an improved East River Park.

A slide from the town’s earlier plan exhibiting a rendering of a brand new Delancey Road Bridge into an improved East River Park.


A slide from the town’s earlier plan exhibiting a rendering of a brand new Delancey Road Bridge into an improved East River Park.


Lehrer: Eileen in Manhattan, you are on WNYC with the mayor.

Eileen: Hello mayor, good to speak to you. I imply, I am certain that you just agree, clearly that New York Metropolis deserves the very best resilient waterfront plan. And but, it is puzzling that an environmental justice neighborhood, just like the East Village and the Decrease East Facet, has a giant resilient park that is protected the neighborhood, particularly in the course of the pandemic, and but you wish to ram via the ESCR plan, which is a flood wall, and flood partitions have been broadly criticized as a result of they are going to do things like ship the water to Brooklyn, . And flood partitions will entice the water within the park, the East River Park is resilient, and it was in two days after Sandy, it was clear of water and other people might use it once more.

Learn Extra: “We Want One thing Higher”: Decrease East Siders Urge Metropolis To Halt East River Park Resiliency Undertaking

I imply ESCR’s a nasty plan, environmental consultants have testified towards it. The neighborhood is towards it. NYCHA is towards it and, and Scott Stringer even despatched the contract again to you so that you, we actually wish to have an oversight assessment within the Metropolis Council ESCR. It is not been checked out because the pandemic, and we’re gonna lose inexperienced area for 10 years. We’re New Yorkers, we all know how lengthy it takes for the town to do one thing, however in the meantime, they will pull up 1000 bushes, and the one inexperienced area in Decrease Manhattan. Manhattan has two lungs, Central Park and East River Park, and you are going to take away one in all our lungs and put up this very flawed flood plan. We have to have a look at the plan after the pandemic, and in mild of the brand new ideas about flood partitions.

Lehrer: Thanks, I might say Manhattan has three lungs, by the best way, since you neglected the one within the Heights, close to me, fantastic greenery.

de Blasio: I feel of us on the west aspect would say Riverside Park, we will discuss many lungs…

Lehrer: However to her level about floodwalls, they’re controversial.

de Blasio: Yeah… however look, I recognize the fervour in Eileen’s voice, but in addition she’s elevating actual issues… for instance, sure whenever you work on a park, the park will not be totally obtainable to the general public for that time period, and sure it is true and it is painful that some bushes are coming down. However let’s return to why we’re even doing this, we’re doing this due to what occurred in Sandy, and we’re doing this due to rising sea ranges, globally, and the specter of these sorts of storms. That entire space was hit so exhausting in Sandy, everybody remembers the pictures of what occurred, NYU Hospital, Bellevue, so many components of the group that had been hit so exhausting. So the present state of affairs in that broader group shouldn’t be acceptable, and an enormous quantity of public housing developments are susceptible, and that was Sandy, and now we all know we could possibly be seeing storms worse than Sandy mixed with rising sea ranges, which nobody doubts anymore.

So we have now to take intensive measures to guard that a part of Manhattan. This plan is way stronger when it comes to defending the group. I perceive folks love the park, I actually do. However we’re speaking about defending the individuals who dwell there, lots of of 1000’s of individuals. And hospitals, every part in hurt’s approach. This plan does it higher than the earlier plan—we’re going to rotate the work in order that a part of the park is open always, we’ll substitute the bushes. It is not good, however once more we’re coping with climate dynamics past something we might beforehand think about, we have now to answer them. So there’s been an enormous quantity of assessment and oversight on this. It has been debated, we have to get shifting to guard that group.

Lehrer: I wish to ask you in regards to the basement flats, you talked about this earlier than, and the newest stat I noticed anyway was that at the very least 11 folks died in flooded basement flats in Queens. I suppose from the ways in which this storm was totally different from Sandy, extra inland and from totally different sorts of infrastructure, what do you suppose the coverage response to this needs to be, since basement flats, a few of them unlawful conversions, had been already controversial for different causes?

de Blasio: Yeah, look, Brian, this is among the thorniest, hardest points that I’ve seen. Not solely are we speaking about basement flats. Let’s discuss in regards to the unlawful ones that would want an enormous quantity of labor to be introduced as much as code numerous expense. And I do not like the truth that there’s well being and security risks there, it is profoundly troubling. After which on prime of that you just’re speaking to make instances the oldsters who dwell in them having to be undocumented immigrants who’re fearful in lots of instances to show to authorities for assist. So it is like, so many components on prime of one another, however then take into consideration the choice we talked about this morning, our estimate is, at minimal, at minimal it is 50,000 flats, at minimal it is 100,000 folks. In all probability considerably greater in each instances. We wouldn’t have a approach to abruptly say to 200,000 or extra folks, , this is a brand new place so that you can dwell. And if we mentioned to folks you’ll be able to’t dwell there anymore, they’d rightfully be, totally dislocated, and their world can be thrown off in each approach. So what we have to do is try to shield folks the very best we will within the present scenario whereas attempting to determine a long-term answer, and the one approach we’ll do it’s with a long-term answer, not a quick one.

I feel issues like figuring out all departments developing with a approach to canvass them with group teams in order that they have trusted voices locally, speaking to them, significantly when there’s harmful occasions like this coming, utilizing the cellular phone alerts, utilizing obligatory evacuation door to door with first responders. We are able to shield folks from the worst conditions whereas attempting by some means to discover a larger answer to the scenario.

Lehrer: Changing subjects, Liz in Brooklyn, you are on WNYC.

Liz: Hello, thanks for taking my name. My ideas are with everybody who’s struggling proper now because of the flood injury, and I’ll change that subject a little bit bit to speak about colleges. So, Mr. Mayor, 5,000+ mother and father have signed a petition asking for a distant possibility for any household who needs it, which is what L.A. presents households. Why do we want this? Many children cannot get vaccinated, and there are different causes too. Colleges weren’t prioritized within the determination to calm down the masks mandate and restrictions on capability, and moderately than enhance mitigation layers due to delta and 700,000 extra our bodies being funneled again into faculty, you are not doing weekly testing, as so many districts are. Research inform us that this motion alone my lower instances in half. The plan to solely quarantine shut contacts in center faculty and highschool could be very dangerous as a result of COVID is like smoke. It floats to all components of the room, the entire classroom wants to shut, different districts have co2 screens and each room to verify their air is protected—once more, we’re failing to supply the very best we will. Dad and mom are very involved and we should not have to decide on between our youngsters’s well being and their schooling, Michelle Goldberg of The New York Occasions regarded on the science and New York Metropolis’s plan and concluded…

Lehrer: I do know you are studying an extended assertion, and I allow you to go on for some time and you bought numerous vital factors in there. However let’s have a dialog. So, Mr. Mayor, you hear that she’s asking for a distant possibility.

de Blasio: I respect the issues that had been raised, I listened to them, and I once more will say, it is by no means summary for me, my children went to New York Metropolis public colleges from pre-Okay all the best way to twelfth grade, each of them. And I’d not hesitate for a second to ship my children to highschool in the event that they had been that age proper now. Why? As a result of we proved final yr that we might have essentially the most stringent well being and security requirements within the nation and get COVID right down to nearly nothing in our colleges. Then we proved it once more throughout Summer time Rising. So anybody who needs to say, ‘oh wait, that was June, that was earlier than delta was as prevalent,’ we proceeded to do the identical factor once more with Summer time Rising, with lots of of 1000’s of children. We had a grand whole of two faculty closures in the middle of summer time.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza tour Village Academy in Queens. A window is shown only opening a few inches.

Mayor Invoice de Blasio at Village Academy in Queens in 2020.


Why was that doable? Due to the extent of vaccination. That is why I wish to preserve bringing it again to info and science and what our healthcare leaders say, and that is proof. I respect, Liz and each different mother or father’s voice, however our healthcare management adamantly imagine — they usually spent a yr and a half preventing this pandemic — adamantly imagine that our children should be again at school for a thousand causes together with all well being, psychological well being, bodily well being, instructional, social growth all these causes. And as a metropolis proper now 5.5 million folks have gotten at the very least one dose. Nearly 78% of adults have gotten at the very least one dose. We’re near two-thirds of children, 12 to 17 yr outdated, who’ve gotten at the very least one dose. For this reason we will do it safely, all of the well being and security requirements we put in place earlier than that work. And now a a lot greater stage of vaccination than we have ever had earlier than. And on prime of that requiring all adults within the constructing to be vaccinated. That’s by far the easiest way to guard children right here.

And we don’t imagine in distant schooling, it did not work in addition to in-person by any estimation. So we all know we will preserve children protected. And we’re seeing large vaccination is preventing again the delta variant… on this metropolis it is truly working.

Lehrer: So that you’re putting a guess on a a lot decrease an infection charge within the colleges than another folks, I suppose, as mirrored by Michelle Goldberg’s column quote there from the caller, suppose are more likely to occur.

de Blasio: I respect, Michelle Goldberg, who I feel is a really sensible commentator, however I respect our healthcare management specifically, who’ve been preventing this battle. Any commentator, any citizen, anyone with a viewpoint, I’ll take heed to. However the well being management of the town who’ve been preventing this battle for a yr and a half, they’re saying, all our children should be at school. Our prime educators are saying, all our children should be at school, there’s not even a touch of disagreement. Of all of the management who’ve checked out this and fought this battle, saying we want our children again and we will preserve them protected, in a approach that goes far past what most components of this nation can do, as a result of we have now vaccination at terribly excessive stage, and all the opposite well being and security measures. We preserve including well being and security measures, and each grownup within the constructing vaccinate. And Brian, we’ll preserve getting children vaccinated over these subsequent weeks, that quantity that we’re at now with the 12 to 17-year-olds, nearly two-thirds already, that is going to maintain going up, after which we anticipate the 5-to-11-year-old vaccine as early as November.

Learn Extra: NYC Officers Say Faculty Home windows Can All the time Provide Stable Air flow. Impartial Scientists Disagree.

Lehrer: Comply with up from a listener on Twitter… May you ask the mayor, if he is locked into the HEPA air purifier scenario, he final acknowledged (final time you had been on the present) that he did not know something about this subject that is the air purifiers that had been bought by the town for the general public colleges that aren’t HEPA, which is usually thought of the very best normal and weren’t the very best rated. So he is asking that, and I will add that Gothamist has an article on a number of thousand lecture rooms, not having a lot in the best way of air flow, aside from openable home windows—so on both of these issues.

de Blasio: Yeah, certain. When equity, I do know lots about air flow writ giant, I do not need you to recommend to your listeners in any other case, however I have been working with a complete workforce of individuals for a yr and a half on this. However on the particular factor you increase, Brian, I would like you to be correct, my buddy, you raised this particular firm, particular product which I hadn’t heard of. I went again with our workforce and mentioned, ‘The place does that stand in comparison with HEPA,’ they mentioned this product is definitely considered extra rigorous than HEPA, so we’ll get you the entire info on why that was chosen and the affect that has.

However the different Gothamist article, and I’d actually urge folks to watch out about their info, was additionally inaccurate. The usual has been held and has been confirmed efficient, as a result of we had a yr within the nation’s largest faculty system to show it, is the one we proceed to make use of—open home windows is a really huge deal for each preventing COVID and the air flow models we’re utilizing have labored, and we’re doing in lots of instances, each without delay, and we’re even including extra models now. The issue with the critique is it ignores a yr of proof of what labored, and also you noticed the COVID ranges in colleges and also you noticed how low they obtained significantly towards the tip when delta was already current. The form of air flow our colleges, in real-life situations like battlefield situations, labored and we’re repeating the identical formulation once more this yr.

[Editor’s note: Independent scientists who spoke to Gothamist do not believe that operational windows alone can provide suitable ventilation 100% of the time and using them for ventilation leaves you “at the whim of Mother Nature.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends specifically HEPA filters (not HEPA equivalent) for ventilating classrooms. When a CDC ventilation expert spoke with The Classic, they said “The distinction should be clear between true HEPA air cleaners and others.”]

Lehrer: Let’s finish on a politics query. I had seen the reviews within the Occasions and Politico, that you just employed a pollster and contacted unions to gauge curiosity in a possible run for governor. We now have a listener… “Please ask Mayor de Blasio why is he working for governor in 2022? I obtained a name from a pollster, a few days in the past, please give Kathy Hochul an opportunity and do not major her.” What do you say to that colour or these reviews within the press?

de Blasio: Look, as you’ll be able to hear from the fervour in my voice in your earlier questions truthfully what I concentrate on each single day, preventing COVID and bringing the town again, and I’ve obtained 4 extra months to try this on this workplace, and I’ll hand off this workplace to Eric Adams and I am fairly satisfied he’ll do nice work going ahead. That is my focus. Now, I wish to preserve serving, I’ve completed public service my entire life. I care deeply about schooling I care deeply about well being care. I wish to preserve serving, I am going to take a look at the easiest way to try this. And that is a choice I will make sooner or later.

And I can hear your music coming, so I additionally wish to say to all of your listeners have a really protected, protected, and I hope restful Labor Day weekend…

Lehrer: However you are retaining the door open to major and Kathy Hochul, it feels like from that reply, truthful?

de Blasio: I wish to determine the easiest way to serve going ahead, I do not know what that’s but, however once I know I am definitely going to let folks know however proper now, once more, I’ve obtained a mission I am engaged on day by day for the folks proper right here.

Lehrer: Thanks as all the time Mr. Mayor. Speak to you subsequent week.

de Blasio: Thanks, Brian.

To hitch within the subsequent dialog, you’ll be able to name in to 646-435-7280 on Friday mornings, or tweet your query utilizing the #askthemayor hashtag.


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