Thursday, November 19, 2020

Mayo de Blasio on the State of the City and COVID-19 Stats


Mayor Bill de Blasio: We're going to talk about several things today, but we should start by noting the most serious news of the day – that now, unfortunately, we now know that over a quarter million Americans have lost their lives during the COVID crisis, and it's important to pause and reflect on that. A quarter-million of our fellow Americans gone just in the course of months, and this crisis has been so staggering for all of us, and now a second wave bearing down on us in the city and the need to fight back, the need to have tough restrictions so clear now. We'll talk about that, and we're also going to talk about the things we have to keep doing to learn from this crisis and to recover, and to recover and have a better and fairer society, when we do. There's so much to talk about in terms of the disparities that have come up in this crisis and the things we have to do differently, so we're going to talk about that in a moment as well. 


But let me talk first about our schools. I want to say at the outset, all the families, to all the parents, to all the kids, that it’s a tough day. It was a tough decision yesterday. It was not something anyone could possibly be happy about, and I do want to say how much I feel and understand the frustration of parents that they want – so many of them want their kids to be in school, and that's what I fought for in opening our schools back in September against all odds. We will bring our schools back. This is the most important point. We will bring our schools back, but we're going to have to reset the equation. What's happened just in the matter of days, and you see it in the indicators we go over each day, is something is changing, it's changing rapidly in the city. We certainly see what's happening around the country. We've got to reset the equation. We have been safe – New York City has been extraordinary. The way we came back from being the epicenter of the crisis to being one of the safest places in the country, we got to keep it that way. We got to fight back the second wave. Our schools have been safe, extraordinarily safe. We got to keep it that way. We can't just stand pat with a strategy that worked before when conditions are changing, we need to reset the equation. We need to come up with even more stringent rules to make schools work and testing is going to be absolutely crucial. 


A lot of people's frustration emanated from the fact that they thought there was another kind of disparity. They looked at schools closing, and a lot of people say, what about restaurants?  Well, the Governor made clear yesterday that it's just a matter of time before indoor dining will close and other types of things, gyms, other things – anyone who heard those words, orange zone yesterday, the orange zone rules are clear and New York City will, before long, be in that orange zone status. I talked to the Governor at length about this yesterday, and that means those restrictions are coming. So, for everyone who honestly might feel somehow a little better, if they knew that indoor dining was going to be closed or gyms were going to be closed. I'm sorry to tell you that for the sake of those business owners and everyone who loves those gyms and loves indoor dining, it's just a matter of time. It's very likely to be in the next week or two, and I think you're going to see that across the board, that there's going to have to be a lot of tough choices to move us forward. 


But with schools, I am absolutely convinced we can work with all the stakeholders, work with the state, get to new tough standards and reopen, and we're going to let you know, in the next few days, what that looks like, what that schedule is, what it's going to require of all of us, because it will require all of us to participate, and parents, I'm going to tell you right now, we're going to need you to play an active role in helping us reopen schools, and that starts with getting those test consent forms in. A lot of parents have answered that call. I'm going to emphasize again, if you're someone who says, I really want schools open, the next thing you have to do is file that test consent form immediately. You can do that online. Get that in, so we know your child's ready to be tested because testing is going to be a crucial part of where we go from here to get schools open again. 


In the meantime, we will provide support to families in a variety of ways. Obviously Learning Bridges, our childcare program will be open. That's on a priority basis, starting with essential workers and families in greatest need, but that will be available to help a lot of families. Devices for our kids. We've been continuing to provide free devices for all the kids who need the technology they need to learn. Any child who does not have a device or it's not working, or the service isn't working, you just have to call 3-1-1 and we will get you a device or a new service as quickly as possible. In many cases that just takes a day or two. 


For families that need food, and as this crisis unfortunately deepens again, and the federal support hasn't come, the stimulus hasn't come, a lot of families need those grab and go meals from our schools, they will be provided continually at our schools, even as schools are closed for a period of time, the food service folks – I want to thank the food service workers who are doing amazing work – they will continue to provide food for families who need them, and that will be free, of course, so that will continue, and as the Chancellor always says, all children are learning today and we'll continue to learn in this all remote phase, and we will continue to do this work to get our schools back as quickly as possible. 


So that's the picture with our schools. Let's go back to the question of how we're going to respond to this crisis more broadly and how we're going to come back from it, because remember we do have – every day we've got better and better news on vaccines. We have a new administration in Washington. That's going to totally overhaul the approach to COVID and make it, I think, much better and clearer. We're ready to distribute the vaccine right now in the city, right? As we speak, we're ready. So, we have to turn our focus constantly also to that recovery that come back, but how to make it a fair comeback. We can't repeat the status quo that was in New York City. That's not going to help us. We got to do something different, and COVID uncovered extraordinary disparities, but they weren't just healthcare disparities. Let's be very, very clear about it. The racial and economic disparities go a lot farther than just health care. They go to the fundamental reality of how wealth is distributed in the city in this nation, and if you talk about structural racism, just follow the money. It's quite clear, no matter how hard people of color have worked, they do not get their fair share of the wealth they create, and that's something we have to do more to change in this city, in this country, and that's what our city task force – we've had great leaders in all of our city agencies that have focused on this issue. Leaders of color in every city agency who will have used their experience, their creativity to come up with new solutions, our Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson, and First Lady Chirlane McCray have led the way with the task force coming up with a variety of new approaches, and one of the ideas that is most powerful is what we term as equitable ownership, meaning making sure that there actually is a kind of redistribution of wealth that will change people's lives more profoundly, and that means that people of color get to own in this society, that they get a much greater share of the pie and what is rightfully theirs. That hasn't been the case, and that's why initiatives like special approaches to supporting minority and women owned businesses were created years ago, but they haven't done enough and we need to go a lot farther, and the way to make the MWBE concepts come alive is to up the ante all the time. We've been doing that for years, but we need to do it again, and when it comes to the ownership stake that we need women and minority owned firms to have one of the areas to look at is in affordable housing, because there's going to be a lot of investment going forward in affordable housing. One thing the city will never stop doing is investing in affordable housing. There's a lot of work to be done. There's a lot of construction to be done, and firms led by people of color need many more opportunities to have a piece of that pie. So, our Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been leading the way with a new approach, and I want to thank everyone there for their creativity, their energy, and here to talk about what equitable ownership will look like in affordable housing is our Commissioner for HPD Louise Carroll. 


Commissioner Louise Carroll, Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and thank you also to Deputy Mayor Thompson and the First Lady for your leadership on the Task Force for Racial Inclusion and Equity. Lots of businesses have grown in the city from startups to wealthy companies. Many of them grew by doing a lot of work with New York City government yet rarely have we seen minority and women owned firms, MWBEs get this kind of opportunity for success. This is wrong, and this administration is working very hard to change that. Minorities and women-owned businesses, they form 85 percent of the population. If they don't prosper, the city doesn't prosper. Most MWBE firms are part of Black and Brown communities that have been hardest hit by COVID. These firms hire and train workers in their neighborhoods. Many workers have lost jobs due to this pandemic and these workers need help right now. So, dollars spent with MWBEs, when will enable people to get back on their feet. This is part of how New York City will recover from this pandemic. More than that, money spent with MWBEs will help repair the damage caused by decades of exclusion of people of color from business opportunities and jobs, and even more, more than that, when MWBEs and community not-for-profits own property, it is harder to dislocate them from their community or gentrify them out of their community. That is why starting now, HPD, when we award sites for affordable housing development, we will only consider teams that have an MWBE or not-for-profit partner, and that partner, must own at least 25 percent of the project. In the past and MWBEs and not-for-profits have been included in development teams, but when it comes to the money, it just wasn't there. We are putting an end to that. From now on and MWBE or a not-for-profit must both have a meaningful ownership stake in a project as well as a financial stake in a project. 


New York City is a great place. It has helped so many people from every corner of the country and indeed every corner of the world, people like me, get a foothold in their business or launch their careers. The people in this city have gone on to help others. They've gone on to invent things and build things and are admired everywhere, but it all starts with opportunity. When we open the doors of opportunity to all people, we unleash a flood of talent, and what that does is benefit all of us. We know that many people in the city see real estate development as something that happens to them as opposed to something that's happening for them. We're determined to change that in our housing policies. Our new policy is effective immediately. It will be in a request for proposals that HPD is issuing tomorrow for the development of vacant land in the Bedford-Stuyvesant part of Brooklyn. But this is just the beginning, there's more to come, and I thank you again, Mr. Mayor, for your leadership on this important issue. 


Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner, and Commissioner, you said a lot of important things there, but I want to harken back to the point you made about the city's greatness and who contributes to our greatness and who gets recognized and who doesn't get recognized. If I remember correctly, your family's originally from St. Lucia? 


Commissioner Carroll: Yes, sir. 


Mayor: And you know, you came to this city and brought your skills and talents, and now you're creating affordable housing for all New Yorkers. This is the New York story – that everyone has had opportunity, but not everyone has had equal opportunity, and that's what we need to fix, and actually making sure that the money is distributed fairly and putting tough rules in place to do it. It makes a world of difference. So you heard from the Commissioner – her story is an example of exactly what we want to foster and support, and you heard about the new approach, but now I want you to hear from someone who can tell you what it means for the businesses that will have the opportunity to grow and to reach out to their communities and bring more and more people into that opportunity, and it really is important to understand on a human level, what it means every time a minority and women owned business gets a contract. What literally happens to create empowerment in that community. So here to speak about it, and her story is one of great success. She is the CEO and founder of RF Wilkins Consultants, Francilia Wilkins Rahim, we welcome you. 


Francilia Wilkins Rahim, R.F. Wilkins Consultants: Thank you. Thank you, Mayor. Thank you for having me. I also want to thank the First Lady and Deputy Mayor Thompson for all of the amazing leadership on the Task Force of Racial Equity and Inclusion. And, last but not least, I want to thank you, Commissioner Carroll. Thank you. You know, it was only June when myself, the New York Real Estate Chamber and the Black Business Collaborative came to you on behalf of black business owners across New York City. We came to you and many other agency officials. We were concerned. We were concerned, because COVID was impacting 40 percent of Black business businesses across the United States. We were concerned, because when we looked at New York City, we saw that Black businesses were not having equitable access to New York City contracts. When the collaborative came to you, we wanted to see a shift. We wanted New York City contracts to reflect the Black population across the city. We wanted Black developers to have ownership across affordable housing development. We wanted oversight over agency-wide procurement. And, Commissioner, you heard us. So, thank you.  


You know, the truth is, challenges for Black businesses did not start with COVID. For far too long, we have been able – not able to have an equitable access across contracts. Every day, I speak to developers and business owners who say, why should I even try to participate and bid when I will be overlooked? Why should I try to access a development team when I may just be leveraged as a M/WBE check? You know, when I look at these things, I understand the concerns. These developers would share that Black businesses hire Black subcontractors, Black developers hire Black subcontractors, who in turn hire Black workforce, who, in turn, come from Black communities – a lot of the communities where affordable housing is being developed. 

So, it only makes sense that affordable housing developers look and represent and feel and understand the communities that development is happening in. 


You know, to conclude this, I just kind of go back to my story. In 2011, I founded R.F. Wilkins Consultants. At that time, I had no money. I had no relationships. I had very limited access. Today, we hire a diverse community of people. Mayor, you just talked about the New York story, and the New York story has been my story. Not only do we have hire a diverse community of people, but we have implemented some of the most difficult logistic project management and compliance projects across the State of New York. Every day is difficult, but I truly stand on the back of the Black business owners who came before me. Today is not only about contracts, it's about nourishing the Black ecosystem. It's about nourishing Black businesses and activating the next generation of leaders who will hopefully see more Black businesses, more Black business participation. There's still so much more to do, but we have business owners who are ready for a piece of the economic pie. We have a forward-thinking Mayor. We have agency commissioners, like you, Commissioner Carroll, who will ensure that Black businesses are not lost in the implementation of M/WBE programs. Every step towards equitable participation for Black businesses, every step towards acknowledging the disparity – and the disparity Every step towards supporting Black business growth is a step in the right direction. So, Mr. Mayor, thank you, thank you, thank you for your commitment. And we look forward to partnering with you in the future and continuing to support the growth of Black businesses. 


Mayor: Thank you. Thank you so much, Francilia. And what a powerful presentation. I can see why you succeeded. And I really appreciate your energy and I appreciate your hopeful message, even in a tough time. But Francilia’s story, another great New York story. It’s a reminder that great story can't just be for some people and then the ladder gets kicked away and others don't get to participate. It has to be for everyone. It has to be for all the generations coming up. And when we actually act with that spirit of fairness and equity, amazing things can happen. And one of the things I felt as I was listening to you was, you were already seeing the future, that we, again, we are going through so much, but we've got to get one foot into the future. And if we do the smart approaches to share the wealth in a better way, a lot more people are going to prosper and it's going to bring this city back a lot stronger. So, thank you for helping us light the way, Francilia.  


Okay. Everybody, let's conclude with our indicators and go over these now. First, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, threshold 200 patients – today's report, 115 patients with a 34.45 percent confirmed positivity level. Again, we're watching this really carefully. This is the indicator that has been different than the others. Very concerned, to say the least. Haven't seen as much growth there as expected, that’s a good thing, but we are watching very, very carefully. So far, again, our hospitals are doing quite well handling the challenge. Number two though, is a different matter, new reported cases on a seven-day average, threshold 550 cases – this number just keeps growing and this worries me a lot, 1,255 cases. Now, we want to keep testing everyone. And again, I'm going to constantly remind people get out there and get tested. And that will account for some of the growth of those numbers. But, clearly, the trend goes beyond simply the fact that more and more people are getting tested, got keep a close eye there. And now, the percentage of people tested citywide positive for COVID-19, threshold five percent – today's report, 2.36 percent. Today’s seven-day rolling average 3.01 percent.

No comments:

Post a Comment