Mayor De Blasio Talks Pre-K, Budget, Baseball, Before Throwing "First Pitch"

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Mayor Bill de Blasio

[City Hall]

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well good morning everyone. We are going to have City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito join us in just a few moments, but we wanted to get started. I want to thank Deputy Mayor Richard Buery for being here. I thank him for his leadership on what we’re going to be talking about today, which is the incredible victory – the historic victory – on pre-K and after school that’s been achieved in Albany.

And the good news for the children and the families of New York City is extensive. It also means that Richard Buery is going to be working very hard with all of our colleagues – with Sophia Pappas from the DOE and so many of our colleagues – to get everything up and running in time. But let me start by saying I want to thank my colleagues in elected office, our great Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, thank you. And Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, thank you – both tremendous supporters of our pre-K and after school effort. Julissa also has the honor of having Citi Field in her district. And I want to thank the great parent leaders, parent activists standing here with us from all over the city who have been [inaudible] in the effort to achieve full-day pre-K for every child in this city, and after school for every middle school student.

Now, it is a great honor to be here. We’re looking forward to Opening Day. I hope the weather will continue to cooperate. But I want you to know, the opening day I’m really looking forward to is the opening day of school in September. Because that’s a day when tens of thousands more kids are going to have full-day pre-K. And it’s going to be a game-changer for those kids. At some point today – later today, maybe tonight – the state legislature is going to take its final vote. And when that vote occurs, there’s going to be so much to celebrate for the people of New York City. And let me tell you, not just in the area of education.

We are thrilled and honored that we’re going to be making a major step to address the crisis of homelessness, with progress on preventing homelessness and helping families out of shelter. That is part of the state budget that’s being agreed to after years of no progress on fighting homelessness. Thanks to the state legislature, thanks to Governor Cuomo, we’re about to take a major step forward to prevent homelessness and help people out of the shelter.

Such an important additional step is the fact that we’re finally doing more to help people with HIV and AIDS. For years, advocates for the HIV and AIDS community have been fighting to get a 30 percent rent cap. Folks who are struggling with their health, struggling with their finances needed it to make sure they could get housing they could afford, and yet that relief wasn’t there. Again, thanks to the legislature, thanks to Governor Cuomo, the 30 percent rent cap will be in place. Now that is huge in and of itself.

And we’re also thrilled to say, when it comes to education, there’s many victories here. There’s a major increase in the amount of school aid for New York City. And that’s going to allow us to do a lot to continue to improve our public schools across the board. And then, the thing that I devoted myself to – $300 million each year over the next five years for full-day pre-K for every child in the city. This is one of the things that I came here to do as mayor, and now when that vote is taken, it will be a reality. It is truly historic.

We know the power of early childhood education. For years, people all over this city have been fighting for the idea that we would have full-day pre-K for every child. That idea is about to become a reality. And after school, we now have a major investment statewide in after school that’s going to allow us to reach all of our middle school students who need after school programs. This is truly historic. Sometimes the word historic gets thrown around. But I can tell you one thing, this really is a historic moment for the children and families of New York City. This is a huge step forward. It’s going to have lasting benefits. It’s going to have a huge multiplier effect. This is an investment. This is the kind of investment that will actually turn around our public schools and make them work for everyone.

Now, I’ll tell you – I’ll use a little reference to Major League Baseball here. We have the statistics to prove that pre-K works, that after school works. If you’re into [inaudible] metrics, you’ll appreciate that. There’s plenty of facts, plenty of numbers, to prove that pre-K is a game-changer for our kids. And it sets them on the right path. It sets the table. It sets the foundation for a great education ahead. So we know it helps kids on the right path, and we know that the absence of early childhood education holds kids back. We know the absence of an extended learning day through after school holds kids back.

These are the kind of investments that will change education for a generation of New York City children. The whole school system will be different after we put these investments in place. And we’ll look back and realize this was one of the moments where things change. And I have to say as a parent, for parents this is going to mean a huge change in their lives. Not only the peace of mind of knowing that their children will get a better start and a greater opportunity going forward, but also the peace of mind of knowing there’s something they can plan around. Parents in this city will know that full-day pre-K will be there for them. They’ll know that if they have to have their child in a safe place after school and it’s a middle school kid, that place will be available to them.

You know, parents struggle in this city. It’s a hard place to be a parent. And it’s time parents got a break. It’s time they got something that made their lives a little easier. They got a little more support, and it’s finally going to happen because of the vote that will be taken in Albany later today.

Now this has been a long journey. I’ve been at this almost a year and a half since I first proposed this plan for pre-K and after school. And it is a particular honor to be standing with some of the parents and leaders, the elected officials who fought so hard to get this done. This is only happening because so many people stepped up. This was a very broad coalition – religious leaders and community leaders, parents, elected officials. You know, we said we wanted this to be something for everyone. And I was honored to stand with Cardinal Dolan and other religious leaders who really wanted to make sure that pre-K and after school are a reality for all children, in every kind of school. And it’s because there was such a consensus and such an amazing upsurge of support that we’ve gotten to this point today.

And you know I came here also to take on inequality. And inequality stems from the lack of educational opportunity. More and more, our economy is based on educational achievement. More and more, someone’s economic destiny is determined by their educational levels. And it’s crucial if we’re going to take on inequality – we’re going to really create a society of opportunity for all – it’s crucial to fix our schools across the board. So for anyone, like me, who thinks that the inequality crisis has gotten out of hand and must be addressed, we can safely say, this is one of the days where we’re actually turning the tables. We’re actually taking a major step towards a more fair and equal society.

I want you to know that the goal here, and the actions we’re taking on pre-K, and the actions we’re taking on after school and many other things we’re going to do beyond that, in terms of intensifying the role of parents in our public schools and in their children’s education, retaining the best quality teachers, and many, many other reforms we’re going to make. It’s about making the school system work for everyone. It’s about making every neighborhood school a good school. And again, it’s about making sure that parents have a little more support, a little more security as they do the crucial work of bringing up the next generation of New Yorkers. And I speak to you as a parent. I want you to hear the voices of some other parents who have a real perspective on what today means. And first I’d like to call forward Alicia Hyndman. She is the mother of a child who is about to turn four years old, so she is a true expert. Her child is just turning pre-K age now, and she’s looking forward to September. She also is the President of Community Education Council 29 here in Queens, so she’s a leader of many other parents. Alicia, please step forward.

Alicia Hyndman: Thank you. Thank you Mayor de Blasio for not giving up the fight, and elected officials, and parents, and community leaders around the city who pushed this, no matter what the pushback was. Because as a single parent, a parent in Southeast Queens, and a parent leader for so many years, one of the dilemmas always is childcare. What do parents do? And this – I have to tell you that filling out the application at 5 o’clock in the morning when it came online with the DOE was frustrating when you see the choices and how the limits are and which programs are full day and which programs are half day. And as a single working parent, that’s something I had to think about. And now I can breathe a sigh of relief, I can rest a little easier knowing that the hard efforts, the hard work of so many has made this a possibility for all of the parents, not only in Southeast Queens, but throughout New York City. And I just want to thank you for your platform and for all of the people that worked so diligently in getting this pushed across, because now a lot of parents can sleep easier knowing that the choices now – and through the upcoming years – will be that much more. So thank you very much.

Mayor: Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you for your leadership of other parents too. We appreciate it deeply. I have to tell you – I know Sophia Pappas is the head of Early Childhood Education Programs. The Department of Education is looking forward to amending that application as soon as the vote comes to add a lot more options for parents. Now I’d like to bring up another parent leader. I’ve had the honor of working with Isaac Carmigniani before and I’ve seen the energy and the passion he brings as the President of CEC 30, right here in Queens. And Isaac, you are a parent leader who long ago told me the power of after school, and understands the power of pre-K. We saw a great after school program together – in fact – and saw what it means to the kids and the families of your community. Thank you for being here, we’d love to hear from you. 

Isaac Carmigniani: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. As so many others have said before me, this is historic. Now every child has access to high quality, full-day pre-K. that half-day thing just doesn’t quite work when you’re a full-time working parent. Our children need – and will now begin learning in school a year earlier. And I can tell you, I know how much my mom put into me before I got to the first grade, and how much I put into my daughter before she got into kindergarten. And now, to have that formalized for every child, a year earlier than before, is a beautiful thing. It’s an investment in our future, and this is a day that was a long time in coming. So I want to thank you, Mayor de Blasio, but I also want to thank Public Advocate de Blasio, candidate de Blasio, parent de Blasio – because it goes back that far. I want to thank our electeds. We have some wonderful electeds, particularly in District 30. We have Cathy Nolan in the State Assembly, we have Danny Dromm, we have of course Julissa Ferreras, who will soon have a customer for pre-K, and Melinda Katz, who has customers as well. But all of our electeds, because we came together under the mayor’s leadership – came together to say this is something that needs to be done. I want to thank the parents in my district and all over the city who have not given up. And this really shows that persistence pays off. Thank you.

Mayor: Well said. Thank you, very much. And I have to tell you, I’m going to pick up on what Alicia and Isaac said, because parents – I’ve said this all over the city over the last year and a half – when I talked about this vision, the amount of support we got from parents, every kind of parent in every kind of neighborhood, it was truly universal. And it was something very powerful for me to see. Regardless of where people came from, regardless of their economic status, that something united all parents was the desire to see full day pre-K for every child. To see after school be available for more and more kids, so kids would be safe and they’d be continuing to learn longer each day. Parents do a great job of unifying to make change for our children.  The voices of parents often haven't been heard in government, but now they're being heard more and more. And when parents speak up, it makes a big difference. And this victory is because of them. I'm quite clear. If it hadn't been for the extraordinary support over the last year and a half, including from a lot of the individuals right here, we would not have this day to celebrate, we wouldn't be looking forward to this vote in Albany. The parents of this city made this happen.

I have to tell you, there's a lot of people who deserve the appreciation of the people of New York City in Albany right now. I have to tell you, as mayor of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, I want to extend my thanks to Governor Cuomo and the state legislature, because they're doing something so profoundly important for the people of this city. And you know, this has been a particular goal of Speaker Shelly Silver of the assembly – literally almost twenty years now, has been fighting for full universal pre-K – not just the words universal pre-K, but the reality. He's made it a priority year after year. For a long time it wasn't possible to get it farther than the assembly, but now with the help of Governor Cuomo, with the help of the senate, this is finally a reality. I want to just give a special thank you to Speaker Silver for having put pre-K on the map originally, and stuck with it all these years. In the senate, Co-Leader Klein took a particular focus on this issue and helped us to get the support of the senate for this initiative. That was a crucial moment in this victory, and I want to thank also the Democratic Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and the Republican Co-Leader Dean Skelos, the senate majority, the senate Democrats, and the IDC – all of them, when the moment of truth came, all of them stood up for full-day pre-K for the kids of New York City. All of them stood up for after school, which is why this victory is possible.

And just on cue… I've had a great partner in this fight at the city level. And a lot of times when I went up to Albany in the beginning, people said, ‘Yes, but will the City Council be with you?’ And I said, ‘Look, I can tell you one thing about the speaker of the City Council – she understands this issue, and it's not just philosophical for her, it's personal because she understands her constituents and she understands what they need. And she stands up for them.’ And the City Council was so overwhelming in its support for our pre-K and after school plan, and that's another reason why we're able to celebrate this victory today. So, I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and all the members of the City Council, for their extraordinary partnership in achieving full-day pre-K for every child in this city, and after school for every middle school kid. Let me bring forward Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and also want to thank all those that you've been thanking at the state level, and it's great to see all of these advocates here as well [inaudible] very nice to see you. You know, I want to also thank my council colleagues for their advocacy on behalf of New York City's children. Starting this fall, thousands of children who never had access to full-day universal pre-K will be able to benefit from high-quality programming that will help them for the rest of their lives. Study after study has shown this early investment in children's lives makes a world of difference. In the last few months, myself and about two dozen of my council colleagues went up to Albany in the cold to send a clear message to the legislature that early childhood education is a needed investment in the future of our city. And I'm happy that Albany has listened. This program can literally begin to change the trajectory for thousands of children, beginning this fall, and this is a really, really big deal that should not be overlooked. I thank Governor Cuomo, Speaker Shelly Silver, Senator Klein, Senator Skelos, for their leadership and for helping deliver for New York City schoolchildren. It's a really important moment and day, and obviously none of this would have been possible without the leadership of our mayor, but obviously the groundswell from the communities and those that really advocated for the position that my council colleagues [inaudible]. So thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: En Español.

Speaker Mark-Viverito: Ah, claro. Estamos aquí para reconocer que es un día de suma importancia para esta ciudad, donde hemos logrado a través del presupuesto que se ha adoptado a nivel estatal proveer educación pre-escolar para miles y miles de niños, empezando en agosto y en septiembre de este año. Debido al liderazgo de nuestro alcalde, debido al activismo local de nuestras comunidades, vamos a ver niños, particularmente niños [inaudible] ciudad, recibiendo esta educación pre-escolar. Y gracias que, debido a ese esfuerzo en el presupuesto, vamos a ver $300 millones de dólares que se van a invertir en este programa pre-escolar en Nueva York. Así que un gran día para celebrar, y de veras, gracias.    

Mayor: That must be a New York thing, like everything blends together. Entonces, el gran impacto que pre-kínder tiene en el desempeño educativo de los estudiantes es innegable. Los niños que no van al pre-kínder podrían tener problemas para pasar de grado y graduarse de la secundaria. Tenemos el entusiasmo porque la necesidad de educación de pre-kínder es urgente. Con esto, tenemos el espacio para los salones de clase. Tenemos los maestros necesarios. Ahora que tenemos el dinero para financiar pre-kínder a tiempo, completo y gratis, la ciudad de Nueva York está lista para hacer historia.

We are ready to make history.

[LAUGHTER]

Mayor: Let's make some history. All right, we're going to take questions on this topic first. On topic. Grace.

Question: Over the past few months, you've spoken a lot about wanting to fund pre-K with a tax hike on wealthier New Yorkers, and you've repeatedly told reporters here when you were questioned, why not take state money instead of the tax hike, that the tax hike money was the most reliable, and that that's what you wanted. So what's happened now, is this money reliable, can the city depend on it, and how disappointed are you that your tax hike proposal wasn't enacted in Albany?

Mayor: You know, what I said many, many times is we needed reliable funding for five years at the dollar figure we had set. What have we gotten? Reliable funding for five years at the dollar figure we set. It's as simple as that. And I'm very proud of everyone here, who fought for a year and half to achieve this, and it is no accident that because people fought so intensely, and would not compromise on the goal, that we are now achieving the goal.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: It's not a one year plan. It's a five year plan. It's not a little bit of what we wanted, it's the total dollar figure. So, I think it's a huge step forward. Now, every year we have to make sure there's continuity in Albany on the commitment. That is part of the legislative process too. But the fact that all of the players involved – the governor, the senate, the assembly – affirmed a five year vision at this dollar figure, and put real money in right now, so that we can have tens of thousands more kids getting full-day pre-k this September, and after-school programs this September – the proof is in the pudding. This is happening now. The progress is real. And so we've achieved the goal. Rich?

Question: Mr. Mayor, then, is the tax on the wealthy off the table for good now? Is that what you're telling us, or it may come back next year?

Mayor: Look, I'm going to speak from a hopeful perspective, because this is such a clear and substantial victory. I am going to speak from the perspective that we believe, if we all keep our eye on the ball, that this full commitment will be met over five years. If that's the case, we've achieved the mission. Something changes – all options are the table. But right now we feel very good about where we stand and the trajectory that we're on.

Question: [inaudible] tried to get that passed.

Mayor: What I've said repeatedly is, I wanted the full commitment for five years. That's what I have now. If that continues, we feel good. Someone's got a cellphone issue over there. OK.

Question: [inaudible] how much you go for after school? you talked about [inaudible] providing some money, but it seems like Cuomo sort of dodged that [inaudible] on his conference call, and it's not really clear to us [inaudible] anything at all [inaudible] committed from the state for your after-school programs.

Mayor: Although there is certainly some analysis still going on about the budget, it's a very complicated document writ large, I think what we can broadly say is, there's a very substantial commitment, statewide, for after school. We feel that we'll do very well in terms of getting our fair share of those resources. And it's going to allow us to move forward in the way we've envisioned. Still some details being worked through, but we think it's got us on the path that we need to be on.

Question: [inaudible] the tax hike. I mean was it, at the end of the day, what do you say to people who would say that it's a marketing tactic or just campaign rhetoric?

Mayor: I don't think anyone who knows me and has watched for the last year and a half  thinks it was anything but the truth. It's what I believed. And what I still believe is, the right way to go about things, when you have a particular need that has to be achieved – and I've talked about the history, including, for example, how we got our police force up to the levels we needed to turn around this city, the results of which we're feeling today. But I'm proud to say that Albany hearing – that the charge to them was, if you're not going to agree with that plan, you have to give us the equivalent in another form – actually gave us the equivalent in another form. They didn't nickel and dime us, they didn't give us something that was second-best, they gave us what we needed. And that's what we care about.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: I think the fact is – I mean, look, I've been very active around the state of New York for decades in my previous roles, including when I was in the Clinton administration working with Governor Cuomo– then Secretary of HUD Cuomo. And I care about the state, and I think we're all in this together. That being said, I think it's clear the City of New York was poised to move forward on pre-K and after school on a unprecedented level. And we were ready to move heaven and earth. All of the key personnel, and I want to point to these – I'm going to pull you over for a second – these two heroes that are going to become household names in New York City because of what they're about to achieve in the next few months. I think everyone all over the state understands that this is our priority and we're going to make it work. We definitely want to see this concept spread all over the state, all over the country. But our goal is to do this for our people, and to do it now. And I think that resolve, and the resources we're putting into it, the energy we're putting into, are quite evident. On this topic, in the back.

Question: How much of the $190 million dollars you wanted id you get for after-school programs, middle school [inaudible], are you disappointed or was it [inaudible]?

Mayor: Well, our whole after school effort is focused on the middle school level. Over the years to come, we believe fully in expanding upon that concept, but right now, the focus is on the middle school level– I've said a number of times – because we think it's the area of education that's often been forgotten by policymakers. And parents will tell you, that it's a particularly challenging time in kids' lives, and it's an area that needs more investment. It's also crucial to take the progress we make with early childhood education and reiterate it, and strengthen it as we go along, reinforce it. And we think by extending the school day to those kids who want and need it at the middle school level, that's a crucial, crucial investment. It's similar to the question asked before about the level of support. What we're seeing so far – and analysis is still going on – a very substantial pool of money devoted to afterschool statewide. We think we will do very well in that process, and we know we will be able to get done what we need to get done.

[inaudible]

Mayor: Ok. Let's go on topic. On topic. Ok, you two again. Go ahead, Rich first.

Question: Mr. Mayor, when you first heard the news that the $300 million was in the pipeline, did you pump your fist in the air, do a smackdown, what….

[LAUGHTER]

Mayor: We save the smackdown for only particular cases. My whole family has to be there. I was thrilled. It was a very emotional moment. This is clearly my number one priority, and I think about, as a parent, what it means to all of us to finally have this progress for our children. It's – you really can't take in – in sort of, words – simply what it means for parents to have security, to have reliability, to know their kids are going to have opportunity, to know their kids are going to have the best educational start possible. So for me it was a very emotional moment because this is what I devoted myself to. And lord knows there were many times when, you know, the conventional wisdom was, it would not be possible. And I will tell you who never believed that – the parents standing behind me. Wherever I went in the city, the message was don’t give up. This is the right thing to do, don’t give up, we’re going to get this done. And we’ve gotten it done, and that’s an incredible feeling. So I feel just a great sense of fulfillment and it’s particularly important for me to be sharing it with my fellow parents.

Question: There were a number of items in the budget that your administration put forward regarding the Vision Zero plan. My understanding is that the red light cameras – speed cameras – were not included [inaudible]?

Mayor: Well there’s going to be further action taken on that.

Question: Can you explain what you had hoped to get and sort of what’s next?

Mayor: So you’re – I thought we were on topic, so let me see – I’m going over to Rafael, and then I’ll come to you. Did you have an on topic, Rafael?

Reporter: No.

Mayor: Okay, then I will not go to you.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Okay, we’ve exhausted the on topic, we’re coming over to you. So it’ll go Grace, Rafael, Marcia. So on Grace’s question – look, when you think about a legislative scorecard, our first priority was to get pre-K funded at the full amount for five years – check. We wanted to get a five-year plan for after school – check. We wanted to get the HIV and AIDS rent cap done – check. We wanted to get a program to prevent homelessness and start to reduce the number of homeless folks in shelters – check. So the crucial items we went to Albany to achieve, have been achieved. And I want to thank, again, everyone who has been a part of it: all of the parents, all of the citizens who chipped in, all the elected officials. This was the ultimate group effort, and that’s why it worked. On the speed cameras, that is on the table. And we’re going to go back to Albany for further discussions. It’s obviously a statewide issue. But we feel very good about the fact that there’s a great deal of receptivity in – certainly with the governor and the legislature – to getting something done. It’s not fully figured out yet, but I’m convinced we’re going to get something substantial done there. Rafael?

Question: So Mayor, you have to be careful in this question because –

Mayor: Thank you for warning me.

[Laughter]

Mayor: I wish more of your colleagues would do that before the question. I think we should have a rule – Phil can we have a rule that they say if it’s a trick question upfront? Or like a baseball analogy, you’re going to tell me it’s going to be a curveball. Curveball in [inaudible].  

Question: You don’t want the [inaudible] Marshall to cry, be careful how you answer. Have you been invited to throw the ball at the Boston Red Sox?

Mayor: No, I have not.

Question: Is this going to be a slow pitch [inaudible]?

Mayor: I’m turning it, I’m good. Proud daughter of Massachusetts back there, Marcia Kramer, yes.

Reporter: And a Red Sox fan.

Mayor: And a Red Sox fan, thank you. Thank you for outing yourself.

Question: Are you?

Mayor: I’ve said that a thousand times, yes.

Question: This question has to do with the speed cameras. Last night, Sheldon Silver, the Assembly Speaker, introduced a bill that would give you 140 speed cameras around schools with a speed limit – you would get a ticket if you go over 40 miles an hour in  the school zone. Can you make your best case to the legislature, why this is important? Why you need it? And what it would mean it would mean in terms of child safety?

Mayor: Sure, and I’ll make my case, and I bet my fellow parents have a lot to say on this topic too because look – our children are sacred to us. And the number one thing we all think about is protecting our kids. And when we take them to school and we turn them over to our schools, it’s a moment where every one of us gives that responsibility to our schools. And we feel everyday – I think every parent here can relate to this – we always are a little anxious waiting for our kids to come home safe. Knowing they will be better protected because there are lower speed limits around schools, because there are speed cameras, because people get the message in this town that they must drive carefully wherever children are present – I think that will be a great sigh of relief for parents. I think it would be a game changer. And again, I think that’s well understood in Albany. That’s why I’m hopeful we’re going to get a good solution.

Question: To follow up, you originally wanted [inaudible] and they’re saying 140 speed cameras. Is that going to be enough [inaudible]

Mayor: I think with speed cameras it’s an ongoing effort, meaning we apply them and then we see where else we need them and we make adjustments accordingly. Look, we hope with Vision Zero strategies to reduce the speed of which people drive in general, and change behavior for the good. We think some of the enforcement efforts are already having a favorable impact. So if we do this right, all of these pieces come together to make the city safer for our children, for all pedestrians. And it adds up, so at a certain point, you may not need as many cameras as you originally thought you would. But right now, we are gratified that that number is on the table, and we look forward to achieving something important. I’m going to go on – this is your last segment of this question.

Question: [inaudible] know, I just want you to re-talk about the fact that you’ve given out tickets and it’s having an effect. I think it’s been 12,000 tickets that have been given out in just five pilot programs with speeding cameras. Can you talk about how pleased or not pleased you are at the effect it’s having and why it’s so important –

Mayor: I get briefed every week by Commissioner Bratton on all the statistics related to crime, but also the statistics related to crashes. And so far, we are seeing some real progress. And I think the NYPD’s enforcement efforts are a big part of that. So there’s a lot of pieces to Vision Zero. We need them all to take place and all to come together, and it’s going to take time to do that right. But I think we can already see a beginning of a change of consciousness. Drivers are getting the message –  they have to be careful, they have to be responsible, and that there will be consequences if they’re not. So I’m gratified by what I’ve seen so far. Michael?

Question: I was wondering if this is your first visit to Citi Field and in the past, mayors have not always received the warmest reception during the first pitch. Do you feel zen about whatever happens out there on the field today?

Mayor: It’s not my first time at Citi Field, I’m a big fan of Citi Field. I said to Jeff Wilpon coming in, I really appreciate – as a Brooklynite – I appreciate his dad’s commitment to creating this place in such a beautiful manner. And also, in part, creating a tribute to Ebbets Field in the way it was built. So I think this is a fantastic ballpark. I’m a baseball fan, I go all over the country whenever I get a chance and try to experience different ballparks. This is a really wonderful ballpark. As for the response of the crowd, I think everyone’s going to be too cold to respond. But whatever it is, it is. I’m a sports fan, I think sports fans have a right to express themselves any way they want. And all I can say is I’ve been practicing my pitch. I was at the Park Slope Armory last night, working on my knuckle curveball. I’m looking forward to debuting it today. Jonathan, did you have one?

Question: Yes, following up on the first pitch. Could you walk us through what practice you’ve been doing to get ready for this? And then, do you have any plans to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium, considering you are a fan of their rivals?

Mayor: If invited, I’d be happy to. And in terms of the preparation – so I have years playing ball in my own way, including softball in the Coaches League for the 78 Precinct Youth Council, where I was a coach. And the benefit of being a coach was the coaches got to play softball in our own league, as part of – it was like one of the fringe benefits. And all the times I was coaching Dante's team, or I was a team parent on his travel teams, you know, I would grab every opportunity to practice with the kids, so it's in me. And my practice last night at the Park Slope Armory proved that I can throw a baseball. Now we're going to see where it goes from there

[LAUGHTER]

Question: Can you talk about, do you feel as though, like, you're more of a Mets fan than a Yankees fan? Of the two, do you have a preference? Because of your – we know you're a Red Sox fan. I mean –

Mayor: Did you want to cover the pre-K details?

[LAUGHTER]

Let's just say, I have a special appreciation for the New York Mets. We'll leave it at that.

Question: Mayor, you grew up a Red Sox fan?

Mayor: Yes.

Question: Where were you in '86 when the ball went –

Mayor: I was in a bar on Prince Street, and I was in a state of disbelief.

[LAUGHTER]

I have – this is a – there's a positive story to this, I must say. Bill Buckner got a raw deal, first of all. He was a great player, and he deserved better than the way people treated him afterward. But, no, the positive story is that the Mets were down to one strike, and they came back to win the World Championship. So, I refer back to the topic at hand. A lot of times people were telling us we weren't going to get pre-K and after school done. Some people said we were down to one strike. We came back to win. So, as much as the 1986 World Series still does create certain twinges in my body, as a baseball fan, it was exemplary of what is possible in baseball. The Mets won fair and square, they deserved that, I have always honored them for that. But I try not to go back to that bar on Prince Street.

[LAUGHTER]

Question: Can you talk about the children [inaudible]?

Mayor: Oh yes. And I know Melissa has something to say on that too, potentially. Look, I always say – Speaker Mark-Viverito did an extraordinary job after the tragedy in East Harlem, welcoming people into her office, helping them in every way, trying to immediately help people with the information they needed, finding their family members, then finding housing, getting back on their feet. So I just want to thank you, that you were exemplary in your commitment to your community. There's a lot more to be done. And, I'm really thrilled that some kids from one of the tutorial programs in East Harlem are here with us today, so they get to enjoy this day. These are kids who are from a school very near the site. Obviously, everyone in the neighborhood was affected, so I'm glad that we get to do something nice for them today. And we're also taking the occasion to remind people that the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City is collecting donations to help the families. We've gotten housing secured for the families, but as we all know, people who in some cases have lost everything need a lot of other help to get back on their feet, and I want to thank the Mets, the [inaudible], and all – everyone at the Mets have been fantastic about saying they wanted to use this occasion to talk about the needs of those families from East Harlem  and make sure that we were reminding people to chip in and help them out. So we're really, really appreciative to the Mets for that. Thank you everyone. Oh wait, I'm sorry, did you want to say something? All right.

Thanks everyone.

 

 

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