Friday, July 17, 2020

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Shea on Crime and Covid-19

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Let me note upfront, this city continues to fight the battle against the coronavirus and fights it well. All of you have a lot to be proud of. In a few minutes I'll talk about phase four and the specifics of how we're going to approach it. But the good news is we are on track for Monday, for phase four, with some specific approaches and modifications. But I'll talk about that in a moment, but first I want to talk about the battle against violence, the work we need to do every day to keep our streets safe, and the work we have to do at the community level at the grassroots, the crucial work of bonding police and community together in common cause. This is what neighborhood policing has been all about over the last seven years. And this is the work we will do now because we do not accept an increase in gun violence in New York City. We may be going through one of the most painful and exceptional moments in our history with this pandemic, we may be going through profound social dislocation and the breakdown of the basic functioning of our criminal justice system in terms of our courts, but that is never going to stop us from fighting back and from bringing police and community together and from the crucial work of emphasizing the ownership that people feel in their own communities.

I have seen it time and time again in recent days in Harlem and East Harlem and Bed-Stuy, people coming together to stop the violence and people who want to work with our police in common cause. Clergy, our civic organizations, elected officials, we depend on all of them. We depend on grassroots efforts to stop violence like the Cure Violence movement, the Crisis Management System. And we depend crucially on putting our police officers in the right locations with the right approaches and strategies. And that's what precision policing is all about. That's what CompStat has taught us for years. No one knows that better than our Commissioner, who has really perfected these strategies over many, many years. So, today we're going to outline a citywide violence prevention plan. And when I say citywide, you'll hear from the Commissioner, it will be wherever it's needed, but it will be particularly focused on some very particular sites in the city where we're seeing an uptick in violence and pinpointing the efforts to those sites to stop the violence again. So, we will combine a presence of police, particularly foot patrols – police right there at the front line, connecting with the community – with all those grassroots efforts and community efforts. That is what's going to move us forward. We've been through tough moments before, we've overcome them time and time again. And we have found that that combination, police in the right way in the right place and the right number with community support with community efforts combined is what works.

Now before the Commissioner speaks, today is a day we all reflect on. It is the sixth anniversary of the death of Eric Garner. And we can say today, and I said up in the Bronx when we had a moment to reflect painting the Black Lives mural in the Bronx, signing the legislation passed by the City Council, and I said there, and I want to say it again. We lost Eric Garner and we should not have lost Eric Garner. We never want to, again, in this city, ever again, lose another person in any circumstance like that. We never want to see that again in our city. And we've been working for six years to make sure it never happens again. But I truly believe that Eric Garner, even though he should be with us here today, he did not die in vain. From the moment we lost him, efforts at change and reform have progressed and they can progress today, deeper and deeper, and that work will never stop. So, we feel the pain and we feel the loss and I've spent a lot of time with the Garner family and I know how much pain they still feel, but I know they have joined into the efforts to move us forward and to focus on the changes and reforms that make us a better city and we'll bring police and community together in common cause.

And the last thing I want to say is that later on today, I think it was a fitting thing to do on a day like this, I will be spending time with young people in Harlem, a town hall meeting, to listen to them, not to talk at them, not to tell them what they should think, but to hear from them about what they need. They are the future of this city and how we can hear their needs in this time of challenge and work with them for a peaceful city and a better city ahead. So, with that, I want to turn to our Commissioner. He has been working very hard and we've had many, many conversations about the strategy to move forward and fight back this spate of gun violence. I want to emphasize, I have never seen anyone more systematically think about a challenge and figure out all the tools that need to be used and all the creative approaches. I've never seen anyone do that better than Dermot Shea. My pleasure to introduce our Commissioner.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And I think challenge is the appropriate word. We know where we've come from, the last four months, but what's important for the New York City residents to know is we are incredibly focused on pushing back on the recent violence that we've seen throughout New York City, but very much localized in certain neighborhoods and even certain blocks. The men and women of this police department, the leadership of this police department is there for the residents, will continue to be there for the residents, and we are absolutely committed to making New York City streets safer. We have no intention of giving back to gang members any blocks that we have earned with our own sweat and blood over the years. With the recent uptick in violence, I have had a number of meetings over the last several weeks, both internally and externally, met a number of times with our district attorneys that I can tell you share that vision that I just outlined, in terms of making New York City streets as safe as possible for its residents. That is why we exist as public servants.

In terms of what we've been seeing across New York City, we've been seeing a sharp uptick in gun violence. When you look at certain neighborhoods, we've seen some neighborhoods in Harlem, we've seen some neighborhoods in South Jamaica have an uptick, certainly. But the biggest problems that we've been seeing has been in the Bronx and Brooklyn. We are moving all available resources to those areas. You'll see increased foot patrols, as well as officers in uniform, in marked police cars. We'll also be overlaying that with increased technology, everything from cameras that are mobile to license plate readers and everything in between, and all of this is being done to really focus on that small number of people that frankly just don't get it.

We're going to need help on this. We're going to need help from district attorneys, lawmakers, all community all coming together, cooperation, but I am very confident that we can turn this tide as we move forward out of this. I can tell you just since Monday we have had 13 arrests in shootings just this week. Now these incidents didn't occur this week, but 13 arrests as recently as last night, where uniformed patrol officers on the Upper West Side, responding to a shots-fired job, make an arrest minutes after a shooting had taken place. We have a lot of work to do, but I am confident that together with Community Affairs, with the community, with all partners and stakeholders working together, and with crystal clear deployment and laser focus, we can turn this tide.

Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. I want to emphasize something the Commissioner’s talked about, I've talked about. The Commissioner met with the Office of Court Administration, the State office that runs our court system and with the five DAs. And I know everyone earnestly wants to get the criminal justice system up and running again. I really do. I just want to emphasize that the City of New York will do anything and everything to help the Office of Court Administration bring back our court system, but not in just dribs and drabs. We want the court system back as fully as possible, as quickly as possible so we can address gun violence, so we can make sure there are consequences for anyone who harms another New Yorker. So, I want to emphasize how the NYPD, the City of New York, we will do anything and everything to help, but we need that to happen quickly and we need that to happen fully so we can really turn this corner.

With that, let me talk about turning a corner in a different way. And that's phase four and this is good news. We are moving forward with phase four on Monday. Now the State of New York is finishing some work today into this afternoon on the specifics, and they'll have a formal announcement later on, but I can give you the broad outlines now of what we've talked about with the State and where we agree that we can move forward safely. And it's all about safety. We want to bring people back to work. We want people to get their livelihoods back. We want to bring our city back, but safety and health first always. So, phase four, let's focus first on outdoors. And, again, outdoors has proven to be the area where we're seeing a lot of things work successfully. So, we're going to restart the low risk outdoor arts and entertainment activities. This means things like botanical gardens and zoos, for example. They can reopen, but at reduced capacity, 33 percent capacity. Production of movies, TV shows, that can proceed. The, obviously, something that matters to a lot of us – sports coming back but, again, without audiences. This is something that's been announced previously, but to emphasize that is part of phase four as well, that sports comes back. We'll get to watch it on television. I think it's going to be a great relief to a lot of us, and then particularly to all the baseball fans out there, and I'm one of them, we are so happy to see baseball coming back next week.

Now, outdoors looks very good. Indoors is where we have concerns. Some indoor activities can exist with the proper restrictions, but there's going to be care when it comes to indoors. Each and every situation is going to be looked at very carefully, very individually. So, some will not resume in phase four, certainly not right away. And that continues to be, first of all, indoor dining. That could have started earlier. We've said that's not happening. That continues to not happen. That is very high risk. And we've seen that around the country. Museums, not yet. Malls, not yet. Still closed for now. We've got to strike a balance and we've got time to look at the evidence, watch what's happening around the country, watch what’s happening here in this city, and make further decisions on some of these pieces and we'll do that very carefully with the State of New York. But, look, if you just think back four months ago and think about how horrible the situation was, what we were fighting through, the pain that New Yorkers are going through. And then you think about the day when the four phases were announced and it was made clear that they could move in this kind of progression every two weeks. The fact that we are here is because of the hard work of all of you. And now that we've gotten this far, I'll say it now, and I'll say it many other times, let's hang on to it, let's stay focused, let's stay disciplined. We've got to keep bringing this city back, but that's going to take all of us playing our part.

Now, phase four, again means more and more people going back to work. And it is a reminder of the power of opening up the parts of our economy that we can do safely. And that brings me to something that's clearly been a real success, which is what we've seen with our restaurants. Incredible, incredible response to the Open Restaurants program. Now, 8,600 restaurants participating and that means a lot more jobs have come back. That means a lot of people are enjoying these restaurants and it's giving us hope and it's giving people energy to see this crucial part of New York City back. And look at that beautiful scene in Little Italy. That just gives you a lot of hope. So, the Open Streets element of this is also crucial. I'm going to talk about those pieces coming together, but let me make, first, an announcement on the Open Restaurants program, which has been such a great success – the sidewalks, the curbs. The Open Restaurants program has worked, it has brought back jobs, it has been safe, and therefore we will extend this initiative. The restaurants will be able to use the sidewalks. They'll be able to use the curbs through September, through October. We're extending this to October 31st.

Now we're also going to do more with the Open Streets and combining the Open Streets and the Open Restaurants for the good of everyone. So, today we're announcing 40 more blocks of Open Streets that will have dining Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You're going to see that also in Chinatown, Manhattan, which has been an area that was so hard hit by this virus very early on. So, we're thrilled to see this'll be a big boost to Chinatown, but 40 blocks all over the city. And this will be starting immediately beginning this weekend. So, I know the weather won't entirely cooperate, but when the weather's good, I think a lot of New Yorkers will be out enjoying this wonderful opportunity, but again, do it the right way, do it the right way. Follow the rules, keep the distance as needed, wear those face coverings, help us keep moving forward.

A couple of things to conclude – one, a topic I come back to often, Alternate Side Parking. So, we've had Alternate Side Parking off for much of the time of this crisis. We do need to bring it back when it's important to clean up some more. So, we're going to bring it back for next week and I want to emphasize because there's been some confusion and we're really going to work hard to get this right for people – for folks that have Alternate Side Parking – so it will be on next week, if you typically just move your car once a week on your side of the street, then just do as you would normally would do Alternate Side Parking. If you're on one of those streets with multiple times a week and you see the image on your screen, if you're on the street with multiple times a week, we're trying to move off that going forward. In that instance, just move it on the last day indicated on the sign on your side of the street. Remember your side of the street is what matters and the sign on your side of the street. So, as you see on the visual, ignore the first day, go to the last day, and that's the one time we need you to move your car during the week when Alternate Side is in effect. And we're going to do a lot more to explain that to the people of the city and particularly folks on those blocks going forward.

Okay, let's do our indicators. First, number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold of 200. Today’s report, 75 patients. Number two, daily number of people in Health + Hospitals ICUs, threshold 375. Today's report, 314 patients. And people tested citywide, number three, tested citywide positive for COVID-19, threshold is 15 percent. Once again, today, two percent – a very good number, really striking consistency. And that is a credit to all of you. 

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