NEW YORK CITY — A violent weekend that left a 16-year-old dead forced Mayor Bill de Blasio to defend once again his administration’s handling of an uptick in crime and mounting tensions between police and the communities they serve.
“We’re dealing with an extraordinarily high bar here in terms of the hand we have been dealt.” de Blasio said. “All the combined crisis and challenges together have created an aberrant situation.”
Both de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea applauded their efforts — which include Cure Violence programming and deployment of police to particularly violent blocks —and blamed a backlog in courts closed for the pandemic.
Only about 50 percent of approximately 2,100 firearm charges have reached indictment and grand juries, slated to reopen in August, were closed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s stay-at-home order, de Blasio said.
“Our criminal justice system needs to get back to full strength,” the mayor said. “The disruption here has been striking.”
De Blasio defended Shea amid mounting calls for the top cop’s dismissal, renewed by New Yorkers angered by the NYPD’s handling of the cop captured on video punching a homeless person on a train.
“I’ve been very clear in my faith in Commissioner Shea,” de Blasio said.
Felony charges were dropped against the officer and he will not see a change of duty status, Shea said.
“Use of force does not equate to misconduct,” Shea said. “This is the environment our officers sometimes are working with.”
The mayor addressed another potential danger New Yorkers face this week: an impending heat wave with a heat index as high as 100 degrees, the mayor said.
The city will open its cooling centers, as well as eight public swimming poolst that opened last week, and a half dozen more slated to open Saturday, the mayor said.
“It’s going to be a very hot week,” de Blasio said. “Right now, the heat’s front and center.”
Brooklyn lawmakers joined de Blasio to announce the creation of a new pool at a recreation center to be built in Flatbush thanks in part to funds redirected from the NYPD, de Blasio said.
“That opened the door,” de Blasio said.
The facility will include an indoor swimming pool, track, professional kitchen and workforce development programming at Nostrand and Foster avenues, announced Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte and City Council Member Farah Louis.
It will be named in honor of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
“Children in our district have been looking for a place to go,” Bichotte said. “We need to protect our children from the risk formed by unstructured free time.”
Added Louis, “This is how we’re going to stop shooting and save lives.”
Reporters quizzed the mayor about Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ proposal for schools that would delay the fall semester by a month to ensure enough teachers were prepared to begin a complicated new schedule.
The mayor argued parents needed childcare as soon as possible and it would be irresponsible to make final decisions months in advance.
New York City’s COVID-19 tracking indicators Monday saw steady progress, with 54 new hospitalizations, 286 ICU patients and a 1 percent testing rate, de Blasio said.
Still, the mayor urged caution.
“Ultimately we have to see what the healthcare situation is in the days leading up in the days ahead,” de Blasio said. “It doesn’t add to the equation to delay.”