NEW YORK — While he says the city can handle the expected increase in COVID-19 vaccine appointments after the state expanded eligibility to everyone age 50 or older, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday evening said he remained worried people will wait longer because the city does not have enough supply.
Speaking to Inside City Hall Anchor Errol Louis in his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” interview, de Blasio praised Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s announcement last week that New York state’s vaccine supply will get a significant boost. As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, vaccination efforts will see a $160 billion boost.
New York state will receive a total of 1.65 million vaccines a week by the end of next month.
It's also getting half a billion dollars of support, with the federal government sending vaccines directly to some 200 community health centers, and footing the bill for 5,000 new workers to help administer the shots.
But in the NY1 interview, the mayor expressed uneasiness, saying the increase is “still not everything we need.”
The mayor demanded a reduction in state regulations. He also called for the five boroughs to get more than 500,000 vaccine doses a week, arguing that the city isn’t receiving its fair share of shots given that it vaccinates more than just New York City residents, as people who work in the city but live outside the five boroughs are also eligible to get their shots in the city.
“If we get all those things, we can handle endless numbers of people,” de Blasio said.
The mayor told NY1 he was still confident the city can hit its goal of fully vaccinating 5 million New Yorkers by June, but said “as you add more eligibility, it's going to mean people in some cases will wait longer because we still don’t have the supply that we need.”
Looming over all of this is President Joe Biden’s order that all states open up COVID-19 shots to all eligible adults no later than May 1. The last time the state significantly expanded eligibility — when it allowed people with underlying health conditions to be vaccinated — the competition for shots became fierce. Some of the previous expansions of eligibility have led to vaccine shortages, and even the city briefly ran out of vaccines — although that was before supply increased.
In the interview, the mayor also slammed Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz after she criticized de Blasio for, in her assessment, essentially evicting charter school students.
At issue is classroom space, specifically at a middle school in Hollis, Queens.
Moskowitz hammered de Blasio on Inside City Hall last Tuesday, saying 250 students at her charter school network were left without an official school when the city missed a deadline to extend the Success Academy’s Hollis Middle School co-location at I.S. 238 Susan B. Anthony Academy for another year. Moskowitz blamed de Blasio for Success Academy — whose students are learning remotely through the end of the school year — not being allowed to remain at the middle school.
“Imagine, Errol: We’re in the middle of a pandemic, this city has so many problems, and the mayor has time for a personal vendetta against Success, or against charters, I don’t know what it is,” Moskowitz said.
In his "Mondays with the Mayor" interview Monday, de Blasio said he had nothing to do with it and was not even briefed on the details.
“I think this is another publicity stunt by her,” de Blasio said Monday in response to Moskowitz’s interview. “We’re trying to work with everyone, but we’re going to favor the needs of special ed kids and the needs of our school system overall.”
De Blasio maintained that the city education department needed that school space for special education students, and that the city made efforts to show Success Academy where it could get a new private space for its students. The city claims Success Academy had years to find a long-term location.
“In a lot of communities in this city, space is still a real major concern in our public schools. And we’re talking about going forward now, out of the pandemic, where we expect a lot of kids back. We’ve got to make decisions based on what’s the most important need. Serving our special ed kids, nothing’s more important than serving them. And the law says if a charter school doesn’t get the space it desires, they get the next best thing: they get money to go and privately rent the space. And certainly, Success Academy has plenty of their own money on top of it,” de Blasio said. “I just think you’re not hearing the truth from her. And I wish she would just go and find a space, as she’s quite capable of doing, and move on.”
In her interview last Tuesday — in response to a statement from the city that echoed de Blasio’s claim that the city offered Success Academy alternative options — Moskowitz claimed the city did not provide the charter school network alternative locations, and that the obligation lies with the city based on the law. She also claimed the Hollis school has enough room for its current student population, special education students, and Success Academy students.
In the “Mondays with the Mayor” interview, de Blasio also deflected concerns that the city’s strategy regarding jails is failing, with several inmates dying recently and, according to the mayor’s management report, violence going up among people in the custody of the Department of Correction. Without providing details, the mayor said several factors are contributing to the violence, and said Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann has “made real progress,” assessing that city jails are on the path to long-term reforms. The mayor also said he was not considering asking Brann to step down, as others, such as the NYC Jails Action Commission, have called for.
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This story includes reporting from Bobby Cuza.
Watch the full interview above.
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