MAYOR DE BLASIO HOLDS MEDIA AVAILABILITY

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Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Brooklyn. We’re here at Brooklyn Borough Hall for the start of City Hall in Your Borough week in Brooklyn. This is the fifth borough we’re doing this year and City Hall in Your Borough. And we are concluding this wonderful series of weeks with my home borough. And I’m so happy to be in Brooklyn. We’re going to – we’re going to do a lot this week, a lot of great stuff, a lot of major announcements that will make life better for the people of Brooklyn. And it’s an exciting week. So, we’ll have a lot to say in the course of the week, but let’s start today talking about the key to the recovery in New York City, the way we come back, the thing that is making us strong – it’s vaccinations. Of course, this has been the difference-maker in Brooklyn and all five boroughs.

We’re seeing tremendous demand when it comes to the youngest New Yorkers, and this is really exciting. We want to protect our kids, protect our families. The vaccination for the youngest New Yorkers, it’s only been around for a very brief period of time, but we’re seeing a really great response. And, specifically, the focus on our school sites has been really, really promising. Parents are coming out in big numbers to get their kids vaccinated at the schools. So, overall, as you see, 62,000 doses already administered in a little over a week. 62,000 doses administered to our 5- to 11-year-olds. In our schools alone, our public school sites alone – 22,500 doses. As of today, we will have had a vaccination site at every school that serves 5- to 11-year olds. We’re seeing great success. We’ll be announcing some additional steps in our school-based vaccination effort this week.

We love the fact that parents have decided this is a great place to get their kids vaccinated. So, we’ll be doing more with our schools. And look, everyone, this is a time to focus even more intensely on vaccination, of course, for the youngest New Yorkers, because it’s new. Let’s make sure every single child gets vaccinated, but let’s go back on all the rest of us and make sure that anyone who’s not yet vaccinated gets vaccinated. The colder months are coming, and we know with COVID that means more people indoors, more exposure to the challenge of getting infected. We want more people vaccinated. Good news is, let’s talk about the different age groups – for the 12- to 17-year-olds, that next older group, we’re now at 80 percent – 80 percent vaccinated, at least one dose. For adults, 87 percent in New York City. This is an amazing number. Congratulations to all of you – 87 percent of adults in New York City vaccinated, at least one dose. That number keeps climbing because of mandates, incentives, all the approaches we’re taking.

Listen, we got more to do, but it’s clearly working. And I want you to hear from someone – I’m literally sitting in what’s going to be his office on January 1st. He has been a strong proponent of the measures that we’ve taken to help contain COVID and turn this city around, but he’s particularly focused on the needs of our families and kids in terms of reaching them with vaccination. And he knows, because he’s a father of two young children himself. My pleasure to introduce the next Borough President of Brooklyn, Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

Mayor: Thank you so much, Council Member. I love the hat. It says it all. And you’re rightm when you’re in Brooklyn, you’re replenishing your soul. I agree. I agree. It’s the place be. So, listen, thank you for all the great work you’ve done and all the partnership and wishing you tremendous good luck ahead when you’re in this beautiful building. What an amazing place to work from, and you’re serving all the people of Brooklyn.

Everybody, we focused, of course, now on our youngest New Yorkers, reaching them. And that is absolutely crucial. But let’s also keep our attention on another piece of how we fight COVID again, particularly with the colder months coming on. We’ve got to stay ahead of COVID. So, we have a tool, and it works, and that’s booster shots. We’ve got to lean into it more. Anyone who has not yet gotten a booster and can, this is the time to do it. Don’t hesitate. Go out there and get it done. It’s part of protecting yourself and your family. Now, the good news is, a lot of New Yorkers have heard the call. 620,000 New Yorkers have already gotten the booster. That’s great, but many, many more can. I want you to hear from our Health Commissioner, a reminder to everyone how important it is. All the people qualify, there’s plenty of folks right now who qualify – how important it is to go out and get that booster. Let’s hear from our doctor, Dr. Dave Chokshi.

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to pick up where you left off with an update on our COVID situation. Although hospitalizations remained low right now, we are seeing an uptick in cases in recent days. We have anticipated that this might occur as the weather gets cooler and people spend more time indoors. But compared to this time last year, we have many more tools to fight COVID-19 and work to keep a winter wave at bay, but we should use all of those tools, starting with vaccination, particularly with more kids now eligible and boosters broadly available, using masks, particularly indoors, testing and staying home when ill, ventilation, hand hygiene, and monoclonal antibody treatment for people who are infected. But today, as the Mayor said, I want to emphasize the protection of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Mr. Mayor, as of this morning, it’s actually over 630,000 New Yorkers now who have already received an additional dose. But as you said, even more can benefit from a booster ahead of winter and the holidays, so we’re making a renewed push now. That’s why today I’m issuing a Commissioner’s Advisory to all health care providers, emphasizing our guidance and ensuring that there are no access barriers. First, clinicians should allow adult patients to determine their own risk of exposure based on their individual circumstances. In practice, this means that providers should not turn a patient away if they request a booster, so as long as they’re 18 and older, and it has been at least six months since the Moderna or Pfizer dose, or at least two months since a Johnson & Johnson dose. Second, I’m advising that health care providers proactively reach out to their eligible patients, particularly those 65 and older, those with medical conditions, and those who received a Johnson & Johnson dose. Booster doses are available at sites across the city, or you can have someone come directly to your home. Remember that booster doses of all three vaccine types, Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J are now available. Please visit nyc.gov/covidvaccine for more information or call 212-COVID-19 to speak with a health care professional.

In my own conversations with patients and family members I know that booster doses can provide one more layer of reassurance, allowing us to breathe a bit easier either for ourselves or our loved ones, particularly as we gather and travel around the holidays. So, let’s use every means at our disposal to make this a safe and healthy winter season. Thank you so much, sir.

Mayor: Thank you very, very much, Doctor. Clear, strong message. Everyone, boosters work. Go out and get them. And for anyone who has not even been vaccinated the first time, this is the time to do it. Now, let’s talk about what’s helped to get so many people vaccinated. That’s our mandates. So, mandates work. I’m going to say it again. Mandates work. They should be used everywhere they can be because they work. Our City workforce, as of today, 93 percent vaccinated. That number is going to go up. That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about some of the progress we’ve seen at the City agencies. The fire side of the Fire Department, for example, it was 58 percent when we announced the mandate. It is 86 percent now. The same as the NYPD. Great number, 86 percent. EMS leading the way among so many City agencies, at 92 percent, up from 61 percent originally. Sanitation was 62 percent originally, up to 87 percent. These are great numbers.

I want to thank all of our public servants who made the choice to get vaccinated. Even if you had tough questions, even if you had concerns, you ultimately made the choice. I want to thank you. It’s helping to keep everyone safer. So, we find that this has been an incredibly effective approach. There’s one last piece when it comes to our public employees and that’s the Department of Correction officers who have a December 1st date by which they have to report to duty vaccinated. So, the good news is at the Department of Corrections right now, 92 percent of the non-uniformed staff are vaccinated. That’s a great number. And that’s up 20 points since the announcement October 20th. For the uniformed staff, we’re at 57 percent. We need to move that, obviously. That is up 10 percent since the original announcement, but we got a lot more to do. We wanted to make sure all the uniformed staff know that the deadline is coming up. We want to encourage everyone to get vaccinated in time.

Now the good news is as more and more people are being vaccinated, we’re seeing less occurrence of COVID in our jails to keep everyone safe. So, COVID going down in the jails, as vaccination goes up. So, a reminder to all the Department of Correction uniformed staff who are not yet vaccinated, that we will be providing as we did with all the other workers, since the October 20 announcement, the $500 incentive will be available. And that window starts today and goes through five o’clock on November 30. So, go out there, get vaccinated, get that $500 incentive. Also, for anyone who wants to apply for a reasonable accommodation, you have until Tuesday, November 23rd, to do that.

Okay. I want you to hear from this very strong effort that’s being made to drive down COVID in our jail system, particularly at Rikers Island. Our Commissioner has really focused on keeping people safe and making a series of improvements and reforms. I want to thank him for his hard work. My pleasure to introduce Department of Correction Commissioner Vinnie Schiraldi.

Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi, Department of Correction: Thank you Mayor. I really appreciate the efforts that the whole city is really made to help us out here at Rikers Island and the State as a matter of fact, as well. The virus hit our department really hard as you know, but vaccination is really our best way to hit back as far as I’m concerned. We’re really grateful for the $500 incentive. It is the City’s way of telling staff who get vaccinated, that we appreciate them for literally rolling up their sleeves. But we know that it isn’t incentives alone that drive members of our department. Since joining DOC a few months ago, I’ve seen officers go above and beyond to serve the city. I met men and women who work extra shifts to keep the DOC facilities safe. And officers who volunteered at a time to support people in custody with programs, countless members who are pillars in their own communities, volunteering their time and labor for causes they believe in. We need that spirit of service more than ever in the coming days. As a department, we’re here to do a part to boost vaccination rates. We’ve already had town halls and robocalls, spoken to members, distributed posters, and video messages. We set up a vaccination site on Rikers Island with a shuttle bus running from every jail to that vaccination site. We held family days on the island. So, officers’ entire households could get the shot. And there’s going to be more to come. Thank you, first of all, to the officers who already have been vaccinated and to the civilian employees. And to all those who supported us, including Dr. Fauci, who taped specific messages for the department, author Piper Kerman, to everyone’s favorite Met, Mookie Wilson, who tapped us a message after he stood with us at the 9/11 ceremony at Citi Field, DOHMH First Deputy Commissioner Torian Easterling, who did robocalls for us. We appreciate you for speaking to our DOC team.

In addition to some of this favorable vax data, we have fewer triple shifts, fewer unstaffed posts, less violence, and less use of force than we had in the previous months. Also, more help is on the way as two classes of new recruits will be graduating over the next two months. And another class of new recruits will start training in December. At the end of the day, we have a duty to each other and to those in our care. It’s an obligation I know so many Correction officers consider their core mission. And I believe it will inspire them to do the right thing by December 1st. So, we thank the administration and the Mayor for helping us in these efforts to get DOC vaccinated. It was a great relief to us. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner. Thanks for your great efforts and thank you for the progress that you’re leading. Okay. We’ve talked about vaccination a lot today and how we move forward. I want to talk about something else that’s going to move us forward. And finally, after a long, long wait, we’re seeing real results from Washington D.C. One of the areas New York City needs help the most and that’s infrastructure. Today is a very important day for this nation. And certainly, for this city, as President Biden will be signing the infrastructure bill. I’ve had the honor of being invited to that moment. I’m going to be down there in Washington with the President and everyone else celebrating the importance of this moment. Look, we have been waiting literally for decades for this kind of investment in infrastructure in this city. And there’s lots of parts of America that need help. But when you talk about our older cities, our bigger cities like New York City, we especially, we could not move forward into our future without a federal partner helping us with infrastructure. Now, we finally have it thanks to President Biden, thanks to Senator Schumer and the entire Congressional delegation. The money we need for mass transit, the backbone of our city, to make our roads and bridges safer and better, to improve all of the things that are going to take us into a greener future. Make sure there’s more bike lanes, more busways, to make sure that Vision Zero and safety come first. And then things like more broadband to provide access to the economy of tomorrow. There is so much in this infrastructure bill that will help New York City, a major moment today. And an example of things, really getting done. Thank you to all. And we’ll be celebrating as the support comes to us in the months and years ahead.

Okay, let’s go to our indicators. And again, that all begins with vaccination. This number just keeps growing aggressively and that’s great news. First doses administered today, 12,243,951. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19. Today’s report, 92 patients. Confirmed positivity level 11.58 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers, 0.53. And then new reported cases on a seven-day average. Today’s report, 972 cases. I’m going to say a few words in Spanish, back on the vaccination effort for our youngest New Yorkers.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.

Moderator: We’ll now begin our Q and A. As a reminder, we’re joined today by Dr. Chokshi, by Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro, by Correction Commissioner Vinnie Schiraldi, and by Sanitation Commissioner Edward Grayson. First question today, it goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC.

Question: Mayor and everyone on the call, good morning. On Friday late, your team put out numbers showing the stats by agency, seeking accommodation. And one thing that jumped out is more than 6,000 members of the NYPD have been seeking that accommodation. That makes up more than half of the total of municipal agencies. Is your plan at this point, to let those 6,000 stay working with the test and vax protocol? And let Eric Adams decide whether or not to enforce it? Or do you anticipate making a decision soon on the bulk of those 6,000 members of the NYPD?

Mayor: Oh yeah. Those decisions are going to be made on a rolling basis. It’s a lot to get through, but as I’ve said previously, Andrew, there’s a thorough process. There’s an appeal, but it’s going to keep moving. So, I expect all of those to be adjudicated in the next weeks. And then as we’ve seen with everybody else in City service, someone gets an accommodation, great. They can keep doing the work. Someone doesn’t, they’ll have a choice to make. We can safely predict the vast majority will choose to get vaccinated at that point. Go ahead, Andrew.

Question: With regard to requirements that indoor businesses like restaurants check vaccination, does that currently extend to children five to 11, or not yet? Because we know at this point it’s only a little less than 10 percent of that age group who’s vaccinated. So, let’s say a family goes to a restaurant at this point, their child of that age does not have to be vaccinated, correct? Do you have – do you anticipate that at some point that will be required as well? Or do you anticipate that that guideline will be loosened?

Mayor: First of all – I mean, the overall effort, Key to NYC, has clearly worked. It has kept customers safe, employees safe. It’s the right way to go. At this moment, it’s obviously just brand new for youngest kids to get vaccinated, so we’re not going to be applying that requirement. They have to be vaccinated, for example, to go to a restaurant – we’re not doing that now. At some point in the future, when the vaccination levels are high, that will be a discussion we have, but that’s not something we’re doing now.

Moderator: The next is Chris from the Daily News.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?

Mayor: Good, Chris? How have you been?

Question: I’ve been good. I wanted just to check in on, kind of, perennial updates since Conflicts of Interest Board decisions aren’t made public. I want to see if there’s an update on your appeal of the Board’s ruling that you should reimburse the city for the $320,000 spent on your 2020 campaign security detail. And separately, if there is no update, will you commit to releasing that ruling once it’s actually made?

Mayor: There is no update. We’ll work with the Conflict of Interest Board when they come to a decision on how to talk about it. And again, respect that this is a process they need to go through based on the information we’ve provided. Go ahead, Chris.

Question: Okay. You didn’t – you didn’t really commit one way or another if you’re going to release a ruling, but I’ll move on. As it relates to your potential bid for Governor, I wanted to kind of get your take on how there’s already two candidates in the race, I would say, who identify as progressives – Letitia James and Jumaani Williams. You identify yourself as a progressive as well. I wanted to kind of – do you think that could hurt your wing of the party? If you have three different progressives fighting over the same slice of voters, if you will?

Mayor: Chris, look, I’m not going to get into political punditry. I’ll only say that the more progressive voices talking about where our city and our state need to go the better in terms of moving us somewhere. So, we’re about to have a discussion of our future and what needs to happen. And I think we need vibrant, strong ideas as part of that discussion. That’s what all election campaigns are supposed to be. They often aren’t, but that’s what they’re supposed to be.

Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I was wondering if you and Dr. Chokshi could clarify the announcement that Dr. Chokshi just made about boosters. So, is the City going farther than the State guidance on boosters, which currently says that people who are 65 and older should get it and then those with underlying conditions may receive it? Is this going farther? Are you saying that basically anyone over the age of 18 who wants to get it can get it and should?

Mayor: You know, Elizabeth, I’ll let Dr. Chokshi speak to the specifics. I’ll just make the broad point. I think the more people get booster shots, the better, and we should take the broadest interpretation, the most inclusive interpretation of who qualifies to ensure that people who want it, get it, and are not turned away. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to explain?

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. And thanks, Elizabeth, for this important question. Our guidance is consistent with the FDA authorization as well as the CDC guidance that has been laid out. You mentioned some of the criteria, but a particularly important one is risk of exposure to COVID-19 – excuse me. This is often a very individual assessment of risk, depending on where people work, where they live, what their occupation is. And so, what we’re trying to clarify today is that there should be no barriers to accessing a booster shot, provided that someone is an adult, meaning 18 or older, and at least six months out from a Moderna or Pfizer second dose, or two months out from the J&J dose. So, the bottom line is that, as the Mayor said, we don’t want anyone turned away from a booster dose and we want to prioritize those whom we know will most benefit from it. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you. Okay, go ahead, Elizabeth.

Question: My second question is on the middle school and high school admission process this year. Will there be selective screens allowed for middle schools this year? And will all geographic preferences for high schools be eliminated for the coming admission cycle?

Mayor: I appreciate the question, Elizabeth. We are still reviewing all issues related to admissions. And there’s been some reporting that suggested final decisions have been made, they have not been made. So, this is something we’re going to keep working on. There’s been a lot going on, obviously. But we’re going to look at this very carefully, look at some of the input we’ve received from communities and come up with more specifics soon.

Moderator: The next is Yoav from The City.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. We wrote a few stories last week about the City’s disciplining of municipal workers in substantiated cases of sexual harassment. And one of the issues that came up are neutral employment references. I’m wondering why the City allows for those?

Mayor: I’m sorry, give me – I just want to make sure I understood your question. You’re saying – when you say neutral employment references, just clarify.

Question: Yeah, sorry. Essentially, someone might be facing termination and they are offered a chance to get a future neutral reference if they agree to resign.

Mayor: Okay. I want to be careful. Obviously, this is a tremendously important and sensitive area of concern, Yoav. And let’s be clear, sexual harassment is just absolutely unacceptable. There needs to be consequences. There needs to be clear, strict policies. We’ve been constantly adding to our policies and improving them. There’s still more work to do, unquestionably. But no, that’s not my impression – that the idea if someone gets that kind of treatment. Let me look at that and get you a clear answer. But the important point is, there needs to be consequences in each of these cases. Go ahead, Yoav.

Question: Okay. I guess, the issue, just to be clear – it is something that’s continued in this administration. I’m not sure when it began. But, obviously, it serves to perpetuate the cycle, because whoever that person is goes on to a new job and when they reach out to the City for – to see how their performance was, you know, the City does not inform them of the reason for their departure. And back in 2019, the issue came up because of the – based on the complaints against your Chief of Staff at the time, who went on to new job, and apparently that employer wasn’t informed of what he had done. But, at that time, the City committed to keeping track of how many of these neutral employment references are granted and that hasn’t been done. So, I’m wondering if you know why that commitment wasn’t kept?

Mayor: Yeah. Respectfully, Yoav, I would like to get clear about that. I do not have the understanding that it has not been done. Let me find out. We’ll get you an update. My understanding is, the City is keeping that commitment and is tracking. But I want to be clear, we do not want to see sexual harassment ever. We want to see consequences. We do not want to see it in any way spread. We do not want to see anyone get away with it. There are specific instances that are challenging where the individuals who brought the complaint have asked for their identity to be protected and to make sure that no information about them comes out. We understand that. That creates a challenge. We want to protect the people involved. And that has been a challenge in past cases. But in terms of tracking this issue you’ve raised and making sure we handle it right, I think we have made real changes and we’ll get you those details.

Moderator: Next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I know you’re in Brooklyn today, but this is a Manhattan question. I’m told that the public will be able to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square this year. What can you tell us about that?

Mayor: I can give you something broad at this moment, Juliet. But more details are going to be announced tomorrow on the specifics. But look, we want to have a great New Year’s Eve celebration in this city. This city has been through so much, but this has been a heroic city, fighting through COVID. We’re turning the corner. We’ve got a lot to celebrate. So, it’s going to be a big moment in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. How it’s going to work, we’re going to announce the details tomorrow. Go ahead, Juliet.

Question: Yeah, can you give us a little bit more on that? You know, are you limiting the number of people that would be there necessarily? Or, you know, what else was going to be required?

Mayor: You’re a good and persistent journalist, Juliet. Look, let me say it this way, we expect a large, wonderful celebration. We’re going to have some clear smart rules to keep everyone safe. And again, a little patience – by tomorrow, we’ll unveil all the specifics. Working out some final details with all the stakeholders involved, but expect a great moment in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Moderator: The next is Julia from the Post.

Question: Hey. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to follow up on Elizabeth’s question about geographic preference. I think you were referring to our reporting. So, I wonder if you could reconcile the fact that the DOE’s new 2022 New York City public schools admissions guide says, “beginning with admissions for students entering high school in September 2022, no high school applicant will have priority to attend a school based on where they live.” So, why was that put out of no final decisions have been made? Can you clarify this for parents?

Mayor: I can clarify no final decisions have been made. I don’t know about that specific document. And there’s more work to do, and it’s obviously a huge agency dealing with a lot right now. But the question put to us as this – has a final decision been made? No. Go ahead, Julia.

Question: On the Governor’s race, you were – you’re talking about, you know, more progressive voices talking about where the City and State is headed [inaudible] the better and, you know, we need to have this discussion about our future. That kind of reminded me of the split in the Brooklyn democratic party where, you know, you have younger, more progressive fraction calling for the ouster of the current chair. Could you weigh in on that?

Mayor: I don’t know all the nuances, it’s my borough. I love my borough, but I haven’t been involved in the day to day issues. I can tell you, I have tremendous faith in the chair of the Democratic Party of this borough, Rodneyse Bichotte, I think she’s done a fantastic job. Absolutely fantastic in terms of unifying the party, but also the work she’s doing in Albany. I totally support her, so I’m not familiar with all the nuances of the discussion, but I’m a proud, progressive, and I certainly support our Brooklyn chair.

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is on Abu from Bangla Patrika.

Question: Hello, Mayor, how are you?

Mayor: Good morning, Abu, how are you doing?

Question: Good. Thank you so much. I’d like to know whether the new Mayor is coming and you have some – you have, what about the program you have, continuing in New York City. Do you think it’s going to be continued or there’ll be some programs that will be terminated by the new administration?

Mayor: Abu, I- look I think there’s going to be a lot of taking what we did and then building upon it. I really do. I’ve known Eric Adams for decades. I have a lot of faith in his abilities. We see a lot of things the same about the world and about the city. He – I thought in Puerto Rico, for some of your colleagues who were there, you heard him articulate very clearly that he was going to take the changes we had made and take them to the next level. So, that doesn’t mean every single initiative will be kept, but I think you’re going to see a lot of what we’ve done preserved and then built out. Go ahead, Abu.

Question: Okay, and then the, you know, the [inaudible] Europe and [inaudible] for the United States as well, so what kind of preparation is taking by the city? If anything, you know, [inaudible] –

Mayor: Abu, I lost – there’s a little bit of transmission problem, I lost a little bit of that question. Just repeat it, please?

Question: Okay. The COVID is increasing in [inaudible] especially in Britain and it could, you know, increase the US as well. So what kind of precautions is taken by city? –

Mayor: Yes.

Question: If anything happens.

Mayor:  I’ll start and I’ll turn to Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Katz. Look, we are watching the situation in Europe very carefully. We’re concerned. We actually have had a series of calls about this over the last few days, but we also have to note the differences. The focus on vaccination and the mandates and rules around vaccination and other health care actions have been in many ways more stringent in New York City than in many parts of Europe, and that’s a big difference maker right there. But we are concerned about what we see there. We are concerned about the colder weather. We really want to focus on a few things. More focus on reaching the youngest New Yorker, so speeding up the vaccination process to five to 11-year-olds and finishing the process with the 12 to 17-year-olds, and then getting as many people a booster as possible quickly. Those are the key strategic elements. Dr. Chokshi then Dr. Katz, anything you want to add?

 

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. I’ll just build on the points that you made. And, Abu, yes, we are watching the situation in Western Europe and other parts of the world closely as we always do. New York City is in a good position for the reasons that the Mayor has mentioned, but, of course, we won’t rest on our laurels and our strategy ahead of the winter really boils down to three points. The first, is continuing our focus on getting people who are unvaccinated vaccinated, that includes our pediatric vaccination push but also reaching out to all of the other New Yorkers who still haven’t gotten their first dose and making sure that we do everything that we can to extend that protection to them. The second, is for people who are already fully vaccinated, ensuring that they know that booster doses are available for them because that’s an important layer of protection as we’ve talked about. And the third is for all of us, regardless of our vaccination status, to take the common sense public health precautions that have worked throughout the pandemic, wearing a mask particularly indoors, using testing, staying home when you’re sick, ventilation and hygiene all of this is simple, but remains very important ahead of the cooler months. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Katz. You want to add?

President and CEO Mitch Katz, Health + Hospitals: I would just want to underline that I fully support Dr. Chokshi order on boosters. Living in New York City in this very dense metropolis where we live, to my mind, puts people at higher risk of COVID, which is one of the criteria for the vaccination, for qualifying for a booster, if you’re over 18. One of the specific criteria is being at higher risk, and I view all New Yorkers because of the density of our city, of being at higher risk. And I think by this order, this advisory explaining to physicians that everybody should get a booster. If they want a booster – It will get us a further and help us to prevent a similar situation as what is occurring in Germany. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: : Thank you very much. Go ahead.

Moderator: Last question for today goes to Gersh from Streetsblog.

Question: Hey, everybody on the call, how are you doing Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: I’m doing well. Gersh, how do you feel?

Question: I’m all right. I like going last because you and I, as I say, can talk like gentlemen, [inaudible]. I’m glad you’re in Brooklyn. Hey, a quick question, you  – earlier in the call, you had praised Senator Schumer, which is great. But over the weekend, the Senator said that President idea should release fuel from the strategic reserve because gas prices are very high right now. And he said that after that short-term reduction in fuel prices, America could then restart its effort to reduce the use of fossil fuels, but aren’t high fuel prices kind of a key part of getting America off fossil fuels. So, I guess what I’m asking is do you support Senator Schumer’s call for federal efforts to reduce the price of fuel, you know, whose cost is being driven up in part because of extremely large vehicles that Americans are choosing to buy in greater numbers anyway, and then they complain about high fuel cost. So, what do you think of that?

Mayor: I gave you credit you’re asking a big thoughtful question, but I look at it a little differently than the way you’re framing it. Real simple. I’m in the camp that says we need to over time – not much time – over time, we have to break our dependence on fossil fuels in a very radical way. But I also want to respect the fact that everyday working people in this city and in this country are hurting right now. They’re hurting from all the effects of COVID, they’re hurting from inflation. I think Senator Schumer is right about what we need to do right now to help people through. I hear your bigger point. I really do. And in the future, we got to figure out the right way to help get people away from fossil fuels. But I don’t, wouldn’t put that in the context of this immediate question, when folks are coming out of COVID and dealing with the challenge of inflation simultaneously. Go ahead, Gersh.

Question: Okay, fair enough. I’ve gone a totally different direction now. We’re working on a story about your administration’s efforts to add a series of painted bike lanes in the Community Board 17, area that’s East Flatbush. You know the area well it’s in Brooklyn. So you’re in Brooklyn today. This effort has been promoted by the Department of Transportation for many years. In fact, back in 2017, you made that district a priority district because there had been so many crashes, and I know you push the Vision Zero initiative if you want to reduce those crashes. Well you’re facing opposition from Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn and also that community board, which says that your DOT isn’t listening to the community, even though, as you know that the DOT is pushing a street safety plan. So what do you say to people like Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn who is saying that you’re not listening to the community when in fact your DOT saying, no, we’re listening to the community and that community doesn’t want to keep getting hit by cars?

Mayor: Look at it’s a fair question. We’ve had many times where local elected officials and community boards have raised concerns. And what I’ve always said, really believed in my heart, is that DOT needs to listen for those concerns, because there’ve been plenty of occasions where those concerns said, hey, here’s a better way to do the thing you’re trying to do it. It doesn’t stop us from doing what we have to do. We have to do Vision zero changes. We have to do bike lanes. We have to do select bus service or bus ways, but there’s a better exact placement or approach. that’s valid. That’s helpful. We need that. Sometimes DOT had an idea to do a bike lane on one street. It didn’t make sense. It made it sent more sense one street over it. Those are good conversations But, Gersh, you’ve also seen sometimes just pure rejectionism from community boards. We certainly saw some of this around Queens Boulevard, which particularly didn’t make sense to me, because fixing Queens Boulevard, fixing what had been called the “Boulevard of Death”, making it safe, saving lives, was mission critical. And we had the conversation and then respectfully said, sorry, we got to do this for the safety of all New Yorkers. So there’s a right way to have the conversation. there’s a right way to listen. But in the end, we make the decisions based on safety, based on the principles of Vision Zero, and we keep moving forward.

Everyone, look, as we conclude today, what I want to say is in terms of moving forward big day for New York City today. The infrastructure bill being signed in Washington, it’s something we’ve been waiting for, I’m telling you, for decades so we can get the mass transit we need, so we can get the bike lanes we need, so we can get the ability to move around, better in this city. Really important day and then let’s remember always we are creating our own recovery in this city through the amazing efforts of New Yorkers, but it begins with vaccination. So, everyone out there get the young people in your life vaccinated. And everyone out there hasn’t gotten a booster yet, go out there and get that booster. Let’s keep each other safe. Thank you, everybody.

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