After a year filled with heartache and grief, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sat down with NBC New York's Andrew Siff to discuss a wide range of issues, covering anything from the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to police reform in the wake of George Floyd, his relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his hopes for 2021.
Below are some parts of the interview:
ANDREW SIFF: I want to start this conversation the way a lot of New Yorkers indoors might start a conversation right now, which is: When was the last time you had a COVID test?
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: About a week ago I think, and thank God negative. I try to do it every week now, just because the nature of my work.
SIFF: You today promised one million doses in January. Would you be able to sustain that pace, a million a month, and if so, could New York City reach herd immunity levels by June or sometime in the summer?
DE BLASIO: We are ready to make sure that a million people get vaccinated, our partners better be there with us to help us get there. Now, if we can do it, I want to go as far and as fast as possible. I've said publicly, June I think is the point where we can get to really pervasive vaccination in New York City.
SIFF: You're the only big city that was able to open schools in person. How confident are you that schools will stay open from now to the end of the semester, or will they have to close down again?
DE BLASIO: Based on all that I know, and conversations I've had with our health care leadership, we all agree that schools should stay open throughout the remainder of the schoolyear.
SIFF: But you're not guaranteeing it?
DE BLASIO: I don't get to make the final decision, the state does.
SIFF: Is your relationship with the governor in a better place with the governor in a better place on December 31 than what it was on January 1? And if so, why?
DE BLASIO: Look, we've worked a lot together this year, and I respect the governor. I think he's made a lot of good decisions this year. I disagree with some decisions, and I've obviously said that too.
SIFF: But doesn't it make little sense to New Yorkers that even today the state and the city have different numbers for measuring COVID positivity, for example?
DE BLASIO: I respect the state has their own approach, but you know, Andrew, think about it for a moment. If you now said, 'Hey, the federal government and the city don't see eye-to-eye.' Everyone would say, well that happens all the time, right?
SIFF: Why didn't you do more as mayor to bail out restaurants when it became obvious that federal help would either be insufficient or too late?
DE BLASIO: We had to make choices with very limited resources. This is the whole story of 2020, this city lost $9 billion in revenue, it's astounding. And we made a lot of tough choices to keep going. I think they were the right choices.
SIFF: Another huge story this year, the George Floyd protests over the summer. It's easy to imagine citizen Bill de Blasio or Public Advocate Bill de Blasio participating in those protests, but you didn't do it as mayor. Why not?
DE BLASIO: In a very tough situation, what we can say is we managed to restore a peace. We managed to move the city forward. But we gotta listen to the voices that protested peacefully.
SIFF: The DOI report which you've commented on before cited that the NYPD lacked strategy approaching that situation and others. Don't you take responsibility for strategy and the police commissioner for strategy? How close did you come to replacing police commissioner (Dermot) Shea?
DE BLASIO: I think the reality is that the buck always stops with me. There were things that needed to be done differently and better. I agree with that, and that's my responsibility. I know that the commissioner feels the same.
SIFF: You didn't wake up any day and say, I'm going to have to replace this police commissioner?
DE BLASIO: Clearly not. I respect him, I will tell him and I've said publicly when I think he could've done something better.
SIFF: Your former sanitation commissioner said whoever becomes mayor is going to inherit a bleep show. Do you agree with that assessment?
DE BLASIO: I think that the next mayor's gonna have a host of challenges, but the next mayor's going to govern over New Yorkers and New Yorkers can do anything. I'll be able to hand off to the next mayor a city that is well on its way to recovery, a city that has turned the corner.
SIFF: December 31, 2021. What will Times Square look like?
DE BLASIO: I think it's going to be filled again. I think you're going to see people celebrating. So this December 31, it's going to be poignant because of the people we lost and because of the pain we went through. But there's also going to be incredible joy when that moment hits, when it's the new year. Next December 31, it's going to be the biggest party you've ever seen.