Mayor De Blasio Announces 10,000 New Pre-K Seats

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Mayor De BlasioTranscript: Mayor De Blasio Announces 10,000 New Pre-K Seats At Community-Based Early Childhood Centers In Every Borough

 

Maria Afonso, Parent: Good morning, everyone. My name is Maria . I’m a resident of Queens Village and my child attends UPK here. When I first moved to Queens after I got married, I was looking for a place to place my daughter. And this was the first place I saw and this is the place that she came to. When I first came in, it was very welcoming. From the first person who was at the door – they were nothing but friendly. And then, when she started the UPK last September, I’ve noticed a tremendous change in her – her growth academically, verbally. So, I believe that UPK is a very good program and we should have more programs like this. And, thanks to you now, we’ll have the full-day UPK. It’s very important for children to come to school and have – that’s where they have their foundation, that’s where they learn and be successful individuals as they grow up. So they really need to start from early on. I’m a teacher myself so I know the importance of this. They come to us, some of them with no knowledge whatsoever. Unfortunately, the circumstances at home for them are not the best ones, so we try to provide that to them. And with the full-day UPK, parents can go to work and know and have a sense of accomplishment and be secure that their children will be safe in here. So I want to thank you for granting these UPK programs. And, with this being said, Mayor de Blasio. Thank you so much.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Habla español?

Afonso: Yes, and Portuguese.

Mayor: And Portuguese. You want to do español also? You want to do just a little bit en español for everyone? Same exact, just about your own personal –

Afonso: [speaks Spanish]

Mayor: Muchas gracias.

Afonso: De nada.

Mayor: Thank you so much. And you speak Portuguese too. I’m impressed.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Well, Maria, thank you. Thank you for your own testimony as to what pre-K has meant for your child. And thank you for what you do as a teacher especially, which is something we honor so much. And as you said, some kids come in with advantages, some kids don’t, but in pre-K and full-day pre-K, we’re able to help so many kids get to grade level and get that strong start so they can move forward.

I want to thank our wonderful hosts, Bernice and Mike Budhoo, for this beautiful center that they have created. It’s an extraordinary place. I have become a bit of an expert on pre-K programs, visiting so many, and you can tell immediately when you’re in a special place. They’ve done something wonderful here as executive director and the site director. They also – Richard Buery and I were outside and we were very struck by the sign out front. If you haven’t seen it, I would strongly urge you to take a look at it, because it says free universal pre-K – and then it says the words free repeatedly with many exclamation points. I think one of the things that parents value in a tough economy – a lot of people struggling – the word free, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, is a powerful point for parents. Because Lord knows there are not many things in life that are – and this is one of the things that is.

I also want to say it was so great to visit the classroom because, again, what a lot of us have seen in these pre-K settings that are high quality, you see these are 4-year-old kids, sometimes you see 3-year-old kids, sometimes you see 5-year-old kids – give-or-take 4 – and the engagement, the poise. I’m an adult they’ve never met before. I come in and as soon as I sit down, they start asking questions and they’re right there with it and they’re energized and they’re focused and they’re interacting together as a group, and it really – it jumpstarts a child’s education. You can see it every single time – the energy that pre-K creates and the way it gets kids on the right path.

You’re going to hear in a few moments from the man charged with making all of this happen, our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. You’re going to hear from someone who’s been an extraordinary supporter of this effort – our Public Advocate Tish James, someone we’re depending on to help us implement this in so many ways and get the words out to the community. You’ll hear from State Senator James Sanders, Jr., a good friend of long standing. And you’re going to hear from Jasmine Farrier, who’s an old friend and a parent leader who is going to tell her story about today at this very location – what she did today – she gets some additional breaking news.

But let me just say something quick. The A to Z Center is an example of something that’s just been finished in the last 24 hours. The PEP voted just last night to authorize 10,000 new full-day pre-K seats in community-based organizations like this. In fact, this site is one of the sites the seats for which were authorized last night. So the PEP took a major step forward for our children, authorizing 10,000 seats. This very location, the A to Z Center here in Queens, is now available to parents for application starting right this minute. It’s happening as we speak. It’s up online right now. So this program is moving forward before our eyes. And all over the city in every borough in a host of neighborhoods, you’re seeing similar centers available right now to parents, available to be applied to literally today.

In many neighborhoods in this city, the numbers will be in the hundreds in terms of the available new seats. In Jamaica, there will be over 500 new seats. In Flushing, there will be over 500 new seats. So, in some of the neighborhoods that have the greatest need you’re going to see extraordinary numbers of seats coming to fruition.

The A to Z Center will be going from 20 full-day seats to 74 full-day seats. So for a lot of parents in this community, this center is going to make the difference – a center that couldn’t get enough of it before. Now they’re going to be able to get it and that’s a great step forward. Parents know their community organizations, they trust them, and they’re hearing very clearly – we are going to guarantee the quality standard citywide. The same high standards held by the DOE will be applied in each and every community center. And, by the way, that means community centers like this, community educational facilities, it means parochial schools, yeshivas, charters, libraries – a whole host of community organizations that are sponsoring pre-K.

Parents more and more get it. I have to tell you, as you know, I’ve had the habit – more and more as the weather’s gotten nicer – I’ve been riding the subway a lot more. By far the number one thing that New Yorkers come up to me and talk about is pre-K and particularly parents who have kids at that age or have kids who will be at the age in the next few years, come up to me and tell me how much it means to them and how it’s something they’ve been waiting to get and they’re looking forward to taking advantage of. They understand what it means for them personally. They understand the difference it will make in their child’s life, what it’s going to mean for their own lives, their schedule, their own personal economics, to have full-day pre-K for free. People get it. Now it’s time for people – all over the city – parents all over the city – to know this is the next time to act.

I want to remind you that back on April 23, we had the first deadline for the public schools, the spaces in the public schools. Parents are about to get answers from those applications – give or take June 5. In the meantime, we’re saying keep applying for the new options that become available. Make sure you get the best choice for your child. I want to emphasize – we want parents to enroll by June 26 for these community-based options – the last day of school, June 26.

Information is easy to get. Go online right now and see all the new options that are suddenly available – nyc.gov/prek – 3-1-1 has a full directory available. Texting p-r-e-k to 877877. We’re getting the word out. Our elected official colleagues are getting the word out. It’s something that we need to do quickly so parents get the information and they can get their applications in. It can make a difference in their lives. So that’s what our focus is as an administration.

Before I call up – let’s see my order – hold on – I think Jasmine’s going to tell her story first because it’s very pertinent and timely. But let me just say something quick in Spanish.

Cáda níño meréce recibír úna educación de calidád que lo prepáre pára el mejór futúro posíble.

Says it all – let’s prepare our children for the best possible future – and pre-K does that.

With that, again, a friend who’s been a parent leader in Queens. I’ve watched her activism on behalf of parents and seen it’s had a great impact. A passionate advocate for her family and her fellow parents and someone who understands what pre-K means personally. I’m happy to introduce Jasmine Ferrier.

Jasmine Farrier, Parent: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Again, my name is Jasmine Ferrier and I am a local PTA vice president in one of our District 29 schools. I have a child, Jaden, who is 11. My daughter Savannah is 8. And my daughter London is 3, turning 4 in November. And I recently registered London at our – at my children’s elementary school for universal pre-K. However, it’s a half-day. And I found out just yesterday that A to Z had slots available for full-day. So I rushed over immediately because, as the other parents said here, full-day is essential in early childhood development. And I really want to urge all parents who do not know about their local community-based organizations that programs like A to Z are available thanks to our mayor and our deputy mayor. Thank you so much for that.

Please, please, please, please, I urge you. It is extremely important for you to utilize these programs. I cannot tell you enough how much my little one is ready for this – she wants to. And because of this new program, she’s able to do it for a full day. So thank you so much for what you’ve done. Thank you so much for what you’ve done. Thank you so much for what you’ve done. It’s an amazing opportunity for our little ones, so please take advantage of it.

Mayor: Her name is London?

Farrier: London, yes.

Mayor: How long ago did you apply for the seat here for London?

Farrier: Yesterday.

Mayor: Alright. That’s current.

[Laughter]

Farrier: I applied yesterday. As soon as I heard that there were available seats for full-day, I rushed right over and the process was absolutely seamless. One, two, three – I filled out some paperwork and I was done.

Mayor: Excellent. Thank you.

[Applause]

Mayor: We have a witness. Again, the man who is responsible for moving this huge machinery to make pre-K happen – and it’s going beautifully – I want to thank him for his extraordinary efforts, our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery.

[Applause]

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Strategic Policy Initiatives: I feel like I shouldn’t say anything. You just said – you made the case so eloquently I think I should say thank you, drop the mic, walk away.

[Laughter]

I just want to say, first of all, good afternoon. When I walked into that classroom with the mayor, I have to say, you felt joy in that classroom. You know, Carmen Fariña often talked about bringing the joy to education – and you felt the joy of learning, the joy of friendship and relationships. It was just a very powerful thing, so, anyway, thank you.

As the mayor said, we are bringing pre-K to New York City. Full-day. Free, free, free – exclamation point – universal pre-K to the communities that need it all around the city. We are announcing today just over 10,000 new seats just awarded by the PEP. More than 5,400 of those seats that we’re announcing are in low-income communities around the city. And as someone who came to city government having run a non-profit organization, which itself operated over 10 community-based early childhood centers, I have to tell you that community-based early childhood centers are a tremendous resource, a tremendous opportunity, for many parents and many children.

And often cases, community-based early childhood centers will have resources like social services or extended day programming, or medical care, or dental care, that you often can’t find in a public school. So for many families – and again, families have different choices, different needs, but for many families, I think what you’ll find is that these community-based early childhood centers are a tremendous resource – and in some cases a better resource for families based on what they need.

The key to remember is that whether the center is – whether the pre-K program is in a public school, or whether it’s in a community-based early childhood center, what you have to remember is that it is a quality, high-quality program. All of these programs are held to the same standards, the same level of oversight, the same standards around delivering a quality education aligned to educational standards. The inspections are just as rigorous. The screening process – because believe me, not everybody got as many seats as A to Z did, and not everybody got seats at all – a very rigorous screening process. You should know that these are high-quality programs.

But we’re doing everything we can to make sure that families know what’s there and how to get there. Every family knows the public school next door. You know where that is. You might not know where your nearest community-based early childhood center is. So part of our job is to help families understand that process.

We approach it in two ways. We have our broad campaign. We’ve already announced the $600,000 we’re spending on radio and advertising to get the word out about what a [inaudible] is and how to apply, and what a community-based early childhood center is and how to apply. But also adding new tools online – which you spoke about – new tools online to make it easier for parents to go online and find information. You can dial 3-1-1, you can go to nyc.gov/prek, you can text U-P-K to 877877 – enter your zip code. And we’re also – we’re not relying on building it and they will come. There are staff at the Department of Education that are following up with families who call [inaudible] to really help families walk through the process, to make it as easily – as seamless as you just described. Parents understand how important this is. The message is to apply early, apply often. Everywhere that you think you might be a good spot. June 26 is our priority deadline. You want to get as many applications as possible to increase your chances of getting the center that you want to have. And again, it’s the best investment we can make in our children, in our city and our economy. And just so proud to have my little part in helping to bring UPK to New York City. So thank you.

Mayor: And I want to pick up before I introduce the public advocate, very quick points. The deputy mayor said clearly, people have the right to apply, parents have the right to apply to multiple centers. That’s absolutely fine. Apply to the public school if they had done that before April 23, but they can apply to as many centers as may be pertinent. For some parents it may be near their home. For some it may be near their work. They may want to apply to both. They get one seat in the end. And we obviously know the vast majority of those who apply will be served. But the important thing is there’s no limitation on the variety of applications they can put in. We want to encourage parents to maximize their options for their children.

I also want to note, starting next week – Tuesday is June 3? Tuesday, June 3 the online application process goes live. So right now you can get the application online, you can get the information on the centers and the programs. Starting on Tuesday you can do an interactive application. You can literally apply online, it automatically takes effect. Also for those who like me might have come from a generation in which we are more comfortable mailing things than doing things online – I have to admit it – you can go online, nyc.gov/prek, get the application. If you prefer to mail it, you can mail it to pre-K, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., New York, NY, 10007. Again pre-K, Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., New York, NY, 10007.

So as you’ve also heard previously, parent coordinators, principals are involved directly, working with parents to let them know their options. It’s a full court press. There’s going to be a lot of ways to apply, as [inaudible] indicated. People are going to find this process is being made easier all the time because we know how many challenges parents face. We want to lighten their burden on this front.

Now someone who I can tell you because we served in the council together and she stood up for children so many times. I was involved in a lot of fights because of the chairmanship I had, to protect quality childcare programs for folks in need of them. And those were often challenged in the budget process. And the most reliable ally always was Tish James. And she continues that extraordinary advocacy on behalf of children and families as our public advocate. We welcome Tish James.

Public Advocate Letitia James: I’m so happy to stand here this afternoon with Mayor de Blasio and Deputy Mayor Buery, Senator Sanders [inaudible] and all of the other parents and officials who are here today to announce an additional 10,000 full-day pre-kindergarten seats in community-based early childhood centers beginning this fall, community-based.

If you talk to educators and lifelong teachers, they will tell you that the benefits of pre-kindergarten are immeasurable and innumerable. And these benefits follow children for the rest of their life and their education, their adult life. Quality pre-K works. We know that early education provides a foundation that lasts a lifetime. And we also know unfortunately that comprehensive UPK programs are often not accessible to low-income residents throughout New York City. Too many low-income families, too many single mothers are left with the options to leave their young child with family members, with neighborhood sitters or in often underfunded or underground childcare centers.

Universal pre-K is a family issue. It’s a working and middle class person’s issue. It’s a women’s issue. Access to quality pre-K and head start programs eases economic stress on middle class parents and families who might otherwise pay thousands of dollars for such a program, which is why free, free, free.

Mayor: Exclamation point, exclamation point.

Public Advocate James: Exclamation point. It should be overemphasized.

And in case you didn’t know, there are over 20,000 children in the homeless system who are more likely than their peers to experience acute and chronic health problems, developmental delays, clinical depression and anxiety and behavior problems. They miss an average of 31 days of school each term, perform lower on tests, and are more likely to repeat grades. They need a head start, and we need to provide them one. And universal pre-K does just that through maximizing the resources of community-based organizations who can best address the unique needs of local communities. And that is what is so important. A community-based organization that knows the community. Most of the individuals who are employed here live in the community. And so it’s a safe haven for children. So we must continue to advance proposals and solutions to address the needs of our children, and that’s why we must continue to focus on the needs of children in the City of New York. And it’s an honorary privilege to be with Mayor Bill de Blasio because of all that he has done to advance the needs children in the city. I thank him.

Mayor: Thank you. Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Before I call up the senator, I just want to thank all of the parents who are standing with us today. I think each and every one of them can tell you their stories afterwards about what it takes to be a parent in this town. It takes a lot of work. And this option for parents, the full-day pre-K is a difference maker. I urge my friends who need it to spend time with them afterwards and hear about their own experiences. Now finally before we take questions, I’d like to call up a good friend, a dear friend and also someone who fought shoulder to shoulder on many, many good fights for children and families in the City Council when we served together, Senator James Sanders Jr.

State Senator James Sanders Jr.: Thank you Mr. Mayor. Thank you our public advocate, our deputy mayor, to my stakeholders, parents and committed activists. Often we speak of what’s going to happen when we do public – when we do universal pre-K, but I’m going to take a second to speak about what is happening right now, what’s going on, why we need to do this. Every study that comes in is saying that America is falling further and further behind in the education race. Countries that did not exist are beating us in the education race. That means that America will stop being the beacon of hope, this engine of growth that it is, and we will fall further and further behind. The youth of this city is changing. This city is becoming more diversified. We are now a majority minority city. And these youth especially have to be prepared for the next generation. No longer is the person that they’re working with and having to compete the student sitting next to them. They’re competing with students that they don’t – they can’t even see. They’ll be in classrooms across the globe. If we don’t do something about this problem, we have written these people, these youth off. And I’m glad that we have a mayor – I’m glad that we have such front-line advocates as you’re seeing in back of me at this moment, who are saying that New York City must continue. We understand that this is the empire state. Let’s also keep understanding that this is where Lady Liberty is. This is the place where whatever is going to happen to America, will happen here first. And this is why this effort that we’re doing expanding – [inaudible] every night gets more and more impressive. You’ve come at a good time. You’ve come at a great time. I can tell you of other times. And this is why I’m here and will be here, because my friends, wherever America is going, New York City is going to get there first. And wherever New York City is going, our mayor is in the driver’s seat. God bless you all, brother.

Mayor: Thank you so much. All right we welcome questions. First on topic, questions on topic. Yes?

Question: [inaudible] if you have a percentage or number of the CBOs that applied that weren’t accepted, and if there was a pattern or a trend among the CBOs that you didn’t accept of why they couldn’t offer additional seats.

Mayor: So let me start and then you jump in. Just to start to say, we were very clear – and you remember when we had the first request we put out for space, we needed 21,000 seats, we got 29,000. There’s been subsequent outreach since. So space keeps coming available in the public schools and in all the community-based organizations. It’s a rolling process. But from the beginning we knew we had the ability to be choosy and we were going to be choosy. And we’ve had to have some hard conversations with organizations, to say you’re just not at the quality level we need right now, or we don’t feel good about the physical plant, and until you get that resolved, we’re not going to include you right now. We’d love to include you in the future, but you have to get up to our quality standards first. And thank god we have the ability to do that because there’s such a surplus of applications.

Deputy Mayor Buery: I mean the mayor basically answered the question. Sites might not be approved for a number of reasons. It might have to do with the physical plant, it might have to do with our confidence in their capacity. It may have to do with their experience. And as the mayor said, being not approved for a contract this year does not mean you would not be approved for a contract next year, it just means that we have some work to do to get on level. I wouldn’t say there’s any sort of specific pattern for how that distributes across the city. I mean sort of those basic reasons are the basic reasons folks wouldn’t be approved. And I would say roughly – I wouldn’t quote me on this, although it probably will because of reporters –

[Laughter]

[Inaudible]

So it’s just between us, right? We’re all good friends. I would say roughly – you know 60 percent of programs probably get approved, but it varies. It varies in round – we can the actual number for you, but roughly 60 percent are approved.

Question: I just was wondering if you could spell out a little bit more about the neighborhoods in need that saw maybe the greatest increase in seats or something like that? I know you listed Jamaica and Flushing. And then my other question was just sort of logistically about applying. So now – you spoke about this earlier this week too, but parents can apply with one application? Because before they would have to individually apply to each CBO right?

Mayor: Correct, yep.

Question: But they still have to submit this application to the CBO?

Mayor: So just to clarify and jump in, you know again, the first round of action up to April 23 was the public schools, and that was a traditional application process people were pretty familiar with. The CBO process was never unified in the past so we had to jump in and create unity within it. We are going to increase that over time going into next year. But what we’ve done that makes it simple is a single source of information for all the sites in the city through the website, through 3-1-1, etcetera. And then a single application form that can be used for any site in the city. And you can apply now – as of this coming Tuesday – you can apply automatically online, you can send that application in to the DOE, Tweed Courthouse, and that will be sent to the appropriate local providers. You could walk in as [inaudible] did. You can take that generic application. You can use an application if the local center has their own, it’s all equal. What we’re trying to do is give people a lot of ways to get to a good outcome. So certainly if you get one of those universal applications, print it out online, get it from your parent coordinator at your school, whatever it is. That can work for any center.

Deputy Mayor Buery: Yeah so as the mayor said, the key is just to create as many different ways of doing this as possible. You can submit it centrally. You’ll be able to submit it online directly next week. You can come into the center, which oftentimes is, you know, a great way to sort of see the center, experience it directly. You can do any of those things and you can apply in that way.

Just to talk about the borough by borough breakdown, again they’re spread around the city. So there are over 2,000 seats added in Brooklyn, over 500 in Manhattan, 45,000 in Queens, almost 1,000 Staten Island. I know there are 2,000 in the Bronx.

Mayor: [Inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: From last night, that’s from last night. And certainly if you want more information about deeper neighborhood breakdowns, we can present that to you afterwards.

Mayor: But just to give you a sense of the magnitude, that’s why we use these two examples. For Jamaica and for Flushing, over 500 new seats each, to give you a sense of the magnitude. Grace?

Question: Those – the 10,000 seats that were approved last night, are all of those at CBOs who previously did not contract with the city [Inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: Seventy percent of providers whose contracts were approved last night already are universal pre-K, already have experience providing pre-K.

Question: [Inaudible] new [inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: I should say being new doesn’t mean that you’re new to early childhood education, it means that you’re new to universal pre-K contracts with the DOE.

Question: [Inaudible] additional CBOs are in that? How many sort of new CBOs [inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: There are now – let me practice my math. There are 204, I think, providers –

Mayor: Don’t say ‘among us’ this time.

Deputy Mayor Buery: Among us friends, don’t quote me on my math.

[Laughter]

As I said, I’m new to government. There are 204 contracts, 70 providers, 70 percent of them.

Question: [Inaudible] new [inaudible] that previously weren’t in a UPK program, are they adding – are they [inaudible] mix of students, some of whom are paying tuition [inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: I couldn’t generalize. So different institutions, different providers may have different [inaudible]

Mayor: But I want to just speak to the core of the question. So 70 percent already were doing work with – but remember a lot of that was half-day or a lot of that was – and this is a great example, here is a place that had 20 full-day seats, now going to 74 full-day seats. Very important history to remember, there was a long period – and James and Tish can back me up on this – a long period of disinvestment in community-based childcare, in after-school, so – and a lot of policies of the previous administration actually sadly opened up a lot of space in community-based organizations because they were no longer funded to do child-focused activities.

Part of what we have found is now that there is funding available, a number of community-based centers that had the capacity, had the expertise, just didn’t have funding and had classrooms going wanting or going to some lesser use, are now turning those classrooms around and putting them online for full-day pre-K.

Question:  How frequently will these CBOs be recertified?

Mayor: Excellent. They’ll be monitored constantly, but recertified, why don’t you give us that –

Deputy Mayor Buery: I don’t know remember – I don’t know the details of the process, we can get back to you. But what I would is that part of the way we supervise and support these programs, is that the Department of Education staff are constantly engaged with the staff, as are  Department of Health  and Mental Hygiene staff.  So one of the things that happens under the state is that there’s a minimum of two on-site visits  every year, and in many cases programs will receive many more visits. And it really depends on what that program needs in terms of support and oversight. But we’ve really worked hard to make sure that we have the capacity to provide a high level of quality control and supervision so that these programs are delivering the services that we know that children deserve and need to be able to be successful moving forward.

Question: [Inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: They can be surprised visits, they can be planned visits. We’ve really worked hard to make sure that we here in New York City are creating a quality infrastructure to ensure, ensure that we’re delivering services. It’s not just about numbers, it’s about high-quality, high-quality, high-quality with three exclamation points, Just like free. High-quality early childhood centers. And our job is to make sure that those centers are operating at high quality. That’s why not everybody’s approved. That’s why we have – we’re increasing the Department of Education’s capacity to provide support –free, high-quality, full-day.

Mayor: And on that point about support. So there’s more DOE personnel doing the inspections and doing the quality control. And remember, there’s an ongoing training element here too. And there’s more Department of Health personnel who have been devoted to this. So this is an extraordinarily large effort, and we have resourced it accordingly to guarantee the quality control, by putting a lot of personnel into quality control.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I’ll jump in and tell me if you want to add. This is one of the biggest challenges in this process because first of all, its New York City so all space is at a premium. But second, the fact is that some neighborhoods – and we know where they are – you know, central Queens, obviously, is the number one example. But it’s true in parts of Manhattan, particularly lower Manhattan, it’s true in parts of Staten Island. There’s areas where we experienced overcrowding in general in our schools. If you’re  experiencing overcrowding already it means you’re maximizing your public school buildings, which puts pressure if you’re trying to create pre-K programs to find additional space. What we’ve found in some instances – a lot of instances thank God – is there are good community-based options nearby.

Now, does it mean, in your school zone? No, not always. You know, school zone meaning the immediate public school in your neighborhood. No, it may be a zone or two over. It may be a mile away, it may be a mile and a half away. It’s not always the perfect geographical match. But what  I have heard from a lot of parents, emphatically, and I bet Jasmine and the other parents could affirm this fact is, you know parents will go to some trouble to get quality education for their kids, and oh by the way, if it’s free, they’ll go to even more trouble. So we think in some of the – take  central Queens, which is really a challenge, is we think if parents see that the best location for their child is a mile or two away, it wouldn’t be their ideal, but it’s going to work for them in many cases anyway because of the extraordinary opportunity.

We also know that year one is different than year two. And remember you’re talking about a 150 percent increase in the number of full-day seats. So, again, by definition, clear majority of those who apply are going to get a full-day seat for this September. Some will not until we fully ramp up over 70,000 seats. In that ramp up, were going to try and address some of the biggest gaps between supply and demand. And a place like central Queens, for example, would stand to benefit in the course of the next year as we create additional locations. That’s going to be in some cases, the DOE literally creating a pre-K center in a building that’s in some other use right now, creating something that does not exist today, but will exist for the following September. Yeah?

Question: I have a question, so let’s say that the public school that has a waitlist of kids and there are nearby CBOs, but perhaps those parents don’t know about them or – you know, I don’t know what. But is there going to be a way that the DOE can use those waitlists and contact those parents and encourage them to[inaudible]

Mayor: That’s where the parent coordinators are going to – first of all, there’s going to be a much larger outreach effort that’s literally going to identify any parent who’s interested and help them navigate, facilitate enrollment, working them through the process, letting them know the options. That’s going to be done centrally from the DOE But secondly, part of why we’ve deputized the parents coordinators  in all schools at all levels – not just elementary schools, but intermediate schools, junior high schools and high schools. It’s because if you know how every neighborhood works in this city, parent coordinators have a great relationships with a host of parents , who then talk to a lot of other parents and  neighbors. And so the parent coordinators are going to play a particularly important role of getting the word out and talking to parents, literally in advance of this upcoming day when they’re going to receive the acceptances  or be told that there is not yet a seat for them in a public school building. Parent coordinators have been instructed to get in contact immediately with any parent that didn’t get what they wanted and immediately walk them through the next options.

So we think that hands-on impact is going to make a big difference. And again, in any language the parent speaks because we have translation available. In most school buildings in the city, a number of languages are spoken already between teachers and staff.  But we also have available translators, via telephone, that we can get involved for any parent who needs that.

Question: As far as the physical plants at these CBOs, are they all ready to go, or is this going to be a summer where some of them are doing renovations, getting inspected by the health department, fire department. Is there a lot of work that still needs to be done, preparing them for September?

Mayor:  So I’m going to give the layman’s answer and you can give a more expert answer. A lot of them are ready to go because they’re already contracting with us and they’re already been at the level – or as I  mentioned, as James and Tish and I experienced, a lot of them were physically, previously agreed – approved by the city, running programs, they’ve been defunded. You heard in the course of last year how many fewer child care centers, it was 10,000 child care seats lost over the last five years, 30,000 after-school seats lost over the last 5-6 years. All that space was already appropriate and now is ready to go. Some, I’m sure, have work to do.

Deputy Mayor Buery:  So a few things. One of the things that’s important to remember is that one of the criterion for being approved and being recommended for contract, is our confidence that you can come up online in September. So one of the reasons why a program might not be approved is not that they’re not a good provider, but that we looked and their space and said okay, you can’t get this space ready in the next few months. So that’s the first thing. The second thing – and absolutely right – there are a number of providers who need to be licensed, who need some minor work done.  And I think the big difference this year that separates us from previous years is, rather than putting the entire onus on the provider, they chase us down, they chase down the Department of Health, they chase down the fire department. We really have an unprecedented effort to coordinate work on end, to share information on our end so that we’re actually coordinating the work between the Department of Buildings, the fire department, the Department of Health,  any other resources and agency might provide – might need to make sure that all those programs are moving forward. And it’s really been remarkable how the fire department, the Department of Health have really rallied together to make sure this works. And I know the mayors really proud how everyone – you know when he says UPK is his priority, believe me, every commissioner hears that. I hear it and understand it.. And so everyone is really working together to make sure that we are up and running and ready to go by September.

Mayor: An example of that is I had a conversation with incoming Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro the other day, and before I could even finish the sentence, he said, I know you need us to focus on pre-K and doing all the inspections. So, he knows coming in the door that’s something he has to continue, the incredible work that the fire department is doing on it. Everyone’s gotten the message on how important it is.  Continuing on topic, yes.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Let’s get you facts on that. As you know, there’s been a great response from the yeshiva community, and we feel very, very enthusiastic about it, but we’ll get you the details. This just literally happened in the last days. On topic, last call, looking around. Yes?

Question: {Inaudible] Fall under ACS, correct? So one, does the DOE have any programmatic oversight over these seats? And how are you making sure that there’s [Inaudible]

Mayor: DOE oversight.

Question: Can parents apply with the same form to those – to the ACS seats too? Or are different requirements –

Mayor: A lot of parents are already [inaudible]

Deputy Mayor Buery: So, let me get back to the question of how the ACS seats work. It’s a good question, but let me get back to you on that question. But yes, the main message is that those ACS [inaudible] pre-kindergarten seats are subject to the same standards, the same quality, the same oversight. Any UPK classroom you go to will be a high-quality classroom led by trained teachers.  And so we’re making sure in our goal that in each of those classrooms is a quality classroom supporting young people’s education and development.

Mayor de Blasio: But yeah, the main message is that those ACS users – the kindergarten states are subject to the same standards, the same quality, the same oversight. Any UPK classroom you go to will be a high-quality classroom led by trained teachers, and so we’re making sure [inaudible] in each of those classrooms is a quality classroom supporting young people’s education and development. But we’ll have to get back to you on the application process. Let’s try some [inaudible]

Mayor:  Let’s try some exciting off topic.

Question: Mayor, you just put out a release that you’re basically going to be overhauling the overhaul of the 9-1-1 system?

Mayor: We’re not overhauling the overhaul, no – I think that’s – you’re editorializing. We’re adding to it.

Question: Adding to it [inaudible]

Mayor: Meaning with the first phase – we’ve looked at this more and more, and the more we see, the more we want to dig deeper. The first piece was the pure technology. Let me reiterate the fact that we have an existing 9-1-1 system that is functioning today and functioning well. There has been for a long time a goal of updating that technologically, creating more redundancy if there was ever a need in an emergency, integrating the different pieces of the equation better. That contract, as we looked at it, we found a contract that was not working, was costing a huge amount of money, huge costs overruns, and not an immediate solution in sight. We suspended that contract, we suspended the work, 60 day review. You’re going to hear that answer.

Now what we’ve said today is we are additionally looking at –­ not that piece – the day-to-day operations of the existing 9-1-1 system with the existing technology. It will be a unified effort led by our operations division,  working with the police commissioner, working with the fire commissioner, to review ongoing day-to-day policies, procedures, supervision, training, the whole nine-yards, so we can ensure that the existing system works as well as possible.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: The existing system, yes.

Question: And are there any concerns as we move into the summer and, you know, there’s an uptick – there’s usually an uptick in emergency calls. Like– is the process going to remain the same while this is being reviewed?

Mayor: Yeah, let’s be clear – I’m glad you asked it that way. I would be concerned if we weren’t reviewing it much more than if we are reviewing it. Because what we’re saying is that we’re putting the eyes of the senior leadership of the administration – led by our first deputy mayor, Tony Shorris – on the situation, because we want to make sure. We know for sure that the big vision for technological change has not been working – has not been working on schedule. We’re going to rework all of that. Which means, obviously, you’ve got to make sure your existing system is good for the foreseeable future until you can come up with a long-term solution. And we want a whole evaluation to make sure that everything can be done as well as possible. We saw, in the situation in the Rockaways, things were not handled as well as possible. We want to look at – see what we can learn from that, what we can do differently.

So there is absolute unity – first deputy mayor, the director of operations, the fire commissioner, the police commissioner are going to do that review together. And anything they find that can be improved upon in the here and now – that’s our focus. The system functions, it functions well, it functions in the vast majority – in a huge – I mean look at the – the volume is incredible. Ten million calls last year. The vast, vast majority are handled very well. But we want to keep working to do even better.

Question: [Inaudible] 9-1-1 operator will still get – will still be fielding the call

Mayor: Same system.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Same system, but – so as we speak, same exact system, full review of all the operations, the procedures, the training, the supervision, etcetera. Now at the end of that, we may come out and say, ‘We’re going to make some revisions to the here and now while we work on the bigger technological progress.’ But, again, I like your question because it says what’s – what can the public rely on more? The public can rely on more when the mayor, first deputy mayor, director of operations, fire commissioner, police commissioner are all saying, all eyes on this, we need it to be as good as any human operation can possibly be.

Question: Can you talk about your arrangement with your parks commissioner where he’s going to be traveling to Cambridge every Friday in the fall to teach a course at Harvard? And he also has some other speaking engagements and travel engagements.

Mayor: Let me say I want to answer that, but first quick want to thank Council Member Daneek Miller for being with us, and thank you for your support. You missed the part where we talked about how your district and surrounding areas are going to benefit particularly from this newest round of community-based organizations.

Council Member Daneek Miller: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Getting the word out. You’re that kind of guy – and we thank you for that. We thank you for that outreach and your whole team, that’s very much appreciated.

Commissioner Mitch Silver, as you know, is a very prominent figure in the American city planning community, has been for years, had a host of previous obligations. We worked out – I don’t know all the details in particular, but I can give you the broad template. We worked out a plan to figure out what he had to finish up and what we would do going forward. But I can tell you for sure he is getting the job done, he is an extraordinarily effective person, and I know he can manage the different pieces on his plate.

Question: Just wondering if you’re planning to repeal the ban on having ferrets as pets?

Mayor: Well I appreciate the question – thank you for asking. Unlike local cartoonists, you’re asking the question which needs to be asked – have acted yet? No, we have not acted yet – the Department of Health proposed a change. There will be a lengthy process to determine if that will actually come to pass. I have not been briefed on their rationale, only very glancing, but I have not gotten the full briefing in terms of their rationale for the change, pros and cons, etcetera – we obviously want public input. That decision is months away. So all it means is that one agency has proposed a change.

Question: Mr. Mayor, do you believe that it’s important for Democrats will take control of the State Senate and if so, are you planning to help them do that?

Mayor: Yes and yes.

Question: [Inaudible] put the brakes on the Olympic proposal so quickly?Mayor: Yeah, I, we – look, I think everyone’s noticed that we are running a very vigorous agenda here. And over the years I’ve talked to a lot of people in a lot of cities that took on these very big obligations, and gotten a sense of how we it can pull away from a lot of the other things you’re trying to do.

I think we can also say recent Olympics have been very cautionary – cost overruns, a lot of unintended consequences, a lot of difficulty achieving what was required. New York City by definition is an incredibly sophisticated place. I know if we take on anything we’ll get the job done, but I think what we can safely about the Olympics is there’s a lot of hidden costs, a lot of disruption, and – bluntly – a lot of the parts of the world that are most desirous of having the Olympics are those that are either trying to brand themselves and get known – or how do I say this gently – rebrand themselves. Not that President Putin needed to rebrand himself, for example. You know, so we feel great about New York City’s reputation in the world right now. We literally don’t think functionally we could be any more popular and respected in the world. The tourism numbers at an all-time high, continue climbing. We’re going to have full capacity 

 

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