de Blasio Press Q&A: The Rikers Island Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference this afternoon on Rikers Island, the City’s main jail complex, announcing the recent end of punitive segregation for 16 and 17 year old inmates.  The City has created two new housing units as alternatives to punitive segregation; a “Transitional Repair Unit” and “Second Chance Housing.”  Joined by Department of Correction (“DOC”) Commissioner Joseph Ponte and other DOC officials, de Blasio briefly visited a group of adolescent inmates in Second Chance Housing before the press conference.

On Topic Q&A:

Questions during the on topic portion of the Q&A included the mayor’s conversations with inmates he spoke with during his visit, his prior visit to Rikers Island, how DOC will deal with problematic inmates without the use of punitive segregation, the U.S. Attorney’s view of these changes, criteria for inmates entering the newly created units, where the idea for these changes came from, DOC staff reaction to these changes, whether changes are planned for dealing with adult inmates with mental illness, the condition of the physical plant of Rikers, how attacks with “human waste cocktails” are recorded and whether DOC is concerned that installing cameras will somehow increase such attacks, whether any form of isolation will continue to be used with 16 and 17 year old inmates, out-of-cell programs for inmates in the new housing units, the recommendation of DOI against Commissioner Ponte’s choice for chief of department, the overall increase in jail stabbings and slashings this year, the effect of these programs on 18 year old inmates and how long the “journaling” program has been in place.

Off Topic Q&A:

Questions during the off topic portion of the Q&A included Governor Cuomo’s announcement today that New York State will not permit fracking, Mayor de Blasio’s scheduled meeting with the NY Justice League, whether Mayor de Blasio thinks he is able to unite the City and how New Yorkers have received him, President Obama’s announcement of moving to normalize relations with Cuba and Mayor de Blasio’s own trip to Cuba.

de Blasio & The Justice League

Mayor Bill de Blasio today urged the Justice League NYC to “denounce violence”, but did not condition his scheduled meeting with them on any specific denunciation.  Speaking at an unrelated press conference, de Blasio broadly condemned protestor violence and urged anyone aware of such violence to cooperate with the police.  His scheduled Friday meeting with the Justice League NYC has drawn criticism from PBA President Pat Lynch, who has demanded that the group “publicly denounce the individuals who assaulted police officers or who have attempted to incite violence during these protests.”

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Pacific Park Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his run of affordable housing groundbreakings, joining Bruce Ratner, executives from China’s Greenland Group and other officials in a ceremony at Brooklyn Park.  The affordable housing in Pacific Park, formerly and better known as Atlantic Yards, is adjacent to the Barclay’s Center and was an essential part of the agreements to construct Barclay’s.  The building at the center of today’s groundbreaking is to include 298 “affordable” units.


Following a lengthy program and a shovel photo opportunity Mayor de Blasio spoke with the press.   Between separate on and off topic portions the mayor made a statement addressing the unfolding hostage drama in Sydney, Australia and the attack on two NYPD lieutenants during the large protest march held on Saturday.  His statement on the protest march praised the NYPD for its “brilliant effort” to date in handling the recent wave of protest marches, termed the Saturday night attack “fundamentally unacceptable” and asserted that it is “incumbent on” peaceful protestors “to stop any potential act of violence.”  Here is Mayor de Blasio’s statement:

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de Blasio Press Q&A: The Artsbridge Edition

New York City’s mayor and catholic archbishop today hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking and press conference to mark the beginning of an affordable housing development for senior citizens.  The Artsbridge project, in the Highbridge section of the Bronx, is being developed by the Archdiocese using land provided by the City, with financing from both New York City and New York State.  Being developed by Highbridge Community Development Corporation, Artsbridge will provide 61 “affordable” units for senior citizens.  Bill de Blasio and Timothy Cardinal Dolan, joined by other federal, state, city and Archdiocese officials, gave a ceremonial toss of a shovelful of dirt and then spoke with the press and an invited audience.

Q&A – On Topic:

Questions during the on topic portion of the press Q&A included the relationship between the City and the Archdiocese and between their respective principals, Mayor de Blasio and Cardinal Dolan, how the de Blasio administration calculates the number of affordable housing units for which it claims credit and an extended discussion of the role of the Archdiocese in this project.  Here is the full on topic portion of the Q&A:

Q&A – Off Topic:

Questions during the off topic portion of the press Q&A included the NYPD’s proposed expansion of it’s use of tasers, a fine levied by the Campaign Finance Board against de Blasio ally and pro-carriage horse ban advocate NYCLASS, de Blasio’s recent comments on the City’s long drop in crime being attributable to former mayor David Dinkins and former city council speaker Peter Vallone Sr., a city council proposal to allow filing in City Council district offices of NYPD-related complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the proposed bill which would ban carriage horses and resulting loss of jobs, an attempt by a staff member of the Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor to goad the mayor into agreeing to appear on that show, a possible tax on non-resident apartment owners, the mayor’s planned meeting tonight with Jewish community leaders in Crown Heights and whether the mayor has concerns about the “secrecy” of the NYPD’s disciplinary process.

Separate coverage of a mid-press conference attempt by a staff member of the Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor to goad the mayor into agreeing to appear on that show is here.

Tall on Tall Verbal Violence

Can’t the Tall Men get along?  An emissary of Tall Man and noted conservative Bill O’Reilly today tried to goad Tall Man and noted progressive Bill de Blasio into appearing on O’Reilly’s show.  Unlike most such TV booking requests it was not by email or phone, but during a press conference.  Here’s what happened:

Update:  Extended coverage of Mayor de Blasio’s press conference is here.

Labor Contracts: The Superior Officers Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio tonight announced contract agreements with a coalition of eight unions representing superior officers of the uniformed services.  Speaking at a hastily arranged evening press conference, de Blasio was joined by representatives of the Detectives Endowment Association, Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Lieutenants Benevolent Association, Sanitation Officers Association, Correction Captains Association, Captains Endowment Association, Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Warden Association and Uniformed Sanitation Chiefs Association.  The coalition members voluntarily allied themselves and bargained together with the City for identical agreements.

The tentative agreements provide for 11% wage increases and run for seven years from the expiration of each union’s prior contract in 2011 or 2012.  They also include expected health care savings.  The tentative agreements do not appear to have catch-up of retroactive pay occurring after expiration of the new contract, as has occurred in some other labor deals struck by the de Blasio administration.  Each tentative agreement must be ratified by the respective applicable union.

Upon ratification of these proposed agreements the City will, by it’s account, have reached  labor agreements with 71% of its workforce.  Bob Linn, the City’s chief labor negotiator, said tonight that the City is currently negotiating with all of the City’s remaining unions other than the PBA.  The PBA has declared an impasse in its talks with the City and commenced the process of binding arbitration.

de Blasio Statement:

Here is Mayor de Blasio’s opening statement:

Richter Statement:

The sole labor representative to speak was Roy T. Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association.  Richter described the agreement as ” marked by a sense a fairness and also by an ability to communicate” with the City that he suggested was not present during the Bloomberg administration.  Here is Richter’s full statement:


The Mayor entertained only “on topic” questions.  Here’s the full Q&A:

City Council Protest & Die-in

Approximately 20 members of the City Council staged a die-in in front of City Hall before briefly, and not quite completely, blocking traffic on Broadway this afternoon.  Clearly angered by the Eric Garner grand jury decision, the council members came out of City just before their scheduled 1:00 council meeting to chants of “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”  After reading aloud names of people killed by the police in recent years, they moved out to Broadway.  After briefly blocking traffic, Council Member Debi Rose spoke briefly and the group then returned to City Hall.

Akai Gurley Wake

A wake was held this cold wet December evening for Akai Gurley, the man killed by a police officer’s reportedly accidental shot in the stairwell of Brooklyn’s Pink Houses.  Here’s the scene as Gurley’s casket was carried into the church:

Why People Come To Me

How has the Rev. Al Sharpton remained a central political player for more than 20 years, with close ties to the president of the United States and the mayor of New York City?  It baffles many who follow politics casually, especially those who are primarily familiar with his missteps, from Tawana Brawley to Freddy’s Fashion Mart to his tax problems, but not familiar with much of what he does.

His communication skills are a central element, but it’s more than his speaking talents.  Key to his longevity is his creation and filling of an institutional role.  Sharpton gave his own effective description Thursday during a press conference discussing the Eric Garner case, Sharpton’s call for federally “centralizing” investigations of civilians killed by police and a planned march in Washington, D.C.

de Blasio & Post-Garner NYPD Training

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an NYPD training program designed to avoid police/civilian confrontations like the arrest in which Eric Garner died.  Speaking Thursday at the new police academy in College Point, de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton outlined a three-day training course intended to enhance officers’ ability to diffuse and de-escalate confrontations.  The mayor and police also extensively discussed the Garner case and grand jury decision, as well as the continuing street protests.

de Blasio Statement:

In a lengthy opening statement Mayor de Blasio discussed the new training program, the Garner case and it’s aftermath and broad issues around the NYPD.  He characterized his administration’s efforts as a “series of reforms that all work together that synergize to change the dynamic between police and community.”

(Continue to full post for the Q&A and Bratton’s statement) Continue reading

Sharpton Calls for Federal Intervention, Plans DC March

The Rev. Al Sharpton today called for “federal intervention” to “centralize” criminal investigations and prosecutions of police officers.  Declaring that the “grand jury system is broken” in “dealing with police … questions of criminality and killings” Sharpton urged federal government action akin to the mid-20th century actions on enforcing civil rights.

Speaking after a meeting of approximately 25 organizations, Sharpton also briefly outlined plans for a December 13th march in Washington, D.C.  The focus of the march will be “addressing a broken system.”  Here’s Sharpton’s statement:


Speaking a press conference on Wednesday evening, Sharpton briefly mentioned that he and Eric Garner’s family had spoken with Governor Cuomo.  Today I asked Sharpton about that call.  By his description of their call, the governor “support[s] the federal government coming in.”  Here’s Sharpton’s full answer:


Here is the full Q&A: