February 16, 2016
Albany

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Appears on NY1 to Discuss Initiative to Strengthen State's Anti-Discrimination Efforts

TOP Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Appears on NY1...
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Earlier this morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on NY1 to discuss a new initiative to strengthen the state’s anti-discrimination efforts. The Governor also discussed the state’s efforts to improve homeless shelters, criminal justice reform and the need to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Audio of that interview is available here, and a rush transcript is available below.

Reporter: Good morning Governor and thank you for taking the time to be with us this morning. Let's get right into it and talk about your initiative, you want to stop the discrimination of some people based on race when they go to rent an apartment.

Governor Cuomo: Yes and you know one of the basic rules that we live by which makes this state and this city work is that we don’t tolerate the discrimination of anyone. We invite everyone in and then we say we are going to forge one society from everyone, E Pluribus Unum. That is nowhere more true than in housing, we have the far housing law that says you cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed or sex when it comes to housing. You can’t say that I don’t want to live next to an Italian American, I don’t want to live next to an African American family. Not only is it not right, it is not illegal. We have made progress over the years but it is still going on and still goes on frequently and the state is charged with enforcing the Fair Housing Act, which is a federal law and a state law and we are going to do it. It is essential to who we are as a state and it is what we believe. Housing also is more important, where you live is where your child goes to school, the type of school that your child is in, how safe the school and the community is. This is very important and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to rout out discrimination where ever we find it.

Reporter: Alright let’s move to sort of a related topic just so, in terms of housing we just had that bitter cold weather and there was this push by the city and the state to get people into shelters, but there is this audit this morning by Kenneth Lovett which he has about the State Comptroller concerned about the shelters and saying that some of those shelters are run by the state or overlooked by the state and that they don’t live up the standards set. I guess there are more than problems, there is mold, and there is fire safety issues, one apparently doesn’t have enough showers or toilets and he is asking for more oversight in how they are run and managed.

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, the audit was done by the state comptroller last year and it basically said that the state which is charged with overseeing the cities’ management of the shelters and the system, that the city was not doing its job or a good job in running the city shelters and the state was not aggressive enough in enforcing its oversight on the city, since that audit was done we have done a lot of changes because we agree. The city shelter system is not where it needs to be, there is a lot of violence as we have seen recently, people are literally dying, and there are substandard conditions, so the city is not running the shelter systems appropriately. The state has become more aggressive I had announced that in my state of the state address. We started a statewide inspection system, we have passed new regulations and we will now remove shelter operators who are not doing a good job so we have come a long way since the time the audit was performed but at the time the audit was done, we essentially agree with the findings, the city shelter system is not being run well and the state has to do a better job, a more aggressive job of enforcing its oversight.

Reporter: And how long does it take to say, get a bad operator out so to speak, out of running a shelter like that once you get a complaint and you realize it. How long does that process take?

Governor Cuomo: Well it has to – there is no set time, it depends on how aggressive the state is and how aggressive the city is and it think we have all come to a realization. I have made this a priority back in January in my annual state of the state, this is not okay Kristen. We have homeless people and when you say homeless you have to remember the majority of homeless are children. And we have children in a shelter system that are being exposed to terrible conditions and that’s just not okay. It’s not who we are, it’s not what we expect from our government. New Yorkers deserve better and we have gotten much more aggressive in enforcing the rules and regulations on the city in terms of managing the shelter system. The city spends over $1 billion on the shelter system and we need and we deserve better and we’re going to make sure it happens.

Reporter: There was talk about the increased spending yesterday in an op-ed on homelessness, saying the problem is not getting better. It’s getting worse. It sounds from your comments that you would agree with that.

Governor Cuomo: Well I agree with it. For me, it’s especially painful. I started in my twenties which was many, many, many years ago, working to help the homeless. I build and operated homeless shelters. I then did a plan for Mayor David Dinkins at the time. I headed a homeless commission and the city came up with a plan that actually worked, that was accepted by Mayor Dinkins and then Mayor Giuliani that made real progress. I then went to Washington for President Clinton and we took that New York plan and then made it a national plan. So we know how to do this. We just have to do a better job of management. And we’re spending a lot of money. But it’s not being well-run and I agree that the state was not aggressive enough for a period of time and that has now changed and we have to do a better job and the city has to manage the shelter system in accordance with the rules and regulations. And we’re going to make sure that that happens.

Reporter: Riker’s Island has also been in the news a lot. There have been calls to shut it down. Our political anchor Errol Louis had a column this morning, saying it’s too expensive, it’s too vast, there needs to be a better way. Your thoughts on that.

Governor Cuomo: I agree. Riker’s Island is a problem. It has been for a long time. It’s been festering. It is a dangerous place. It’s dangerous for correction officials, the guards that work there. It’s dangerous for the inmates, and you have to remember, Riker’s Island – it’s not like a state prison. Some of these inmates haven’t been found guilty of anything. They’re awaiting trial and they’re being subjected to really dangerous conditions. It was built back in the thirties, it was much larger that it was ever designed for and it’s not a state of the art facility. It doesn’t have the technology, the architectural design to make it easy to operate. I believe the Speaker of New York City raised the possibility, and I agree with her. We should close down Riker’s and build a new state of the art jail that is just safer for the guards and for the inmates. Now people will say, “Well that’s too big a challenge for us to tackle.” I say baloney. I’m not giving up because we’re intimidated by the scope of a problem, right? Big problems, big solutions. We’re New Yorkers, we can do it. We’re rebuilding a whole new airport at LaGuardia. We’re rebuilding Farley Post Office and Penn Station. We can do big things. We’re building a new bridge, the Tappan Zee. So I wouldn’t be afraid of the challenge and I don’t see how you really remedy Riker’s the way it is designed with that population.

Reporter: What about calls to shut it down and then just rely on the neighborhood jails that are already there and just kind of revamp them and utilize them in a different way?

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, well I think step one in solving a problem is admit the problem, right? It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how in our personal lives and even on a societal level, we’ll go a long way to deny the problem. Admit that that Riker's, as it is, doesn’t work and admit that it should be closed down, that’s step one, and then we’ll get to step two. What is the alternative? Where do we go? Do we go to neighborhood jails? More smaller facilities? Do we find a different site and build one large facility? That’s step two Kristen, we haven’t finished step one which is admit the problem, let’s admit that the size and the design of it is really a negative and unless we redesign it and we make a smaller facility, you’re never really going to solve the problems and we have to because it’s unsafe for the guards, it’s unsafe for the inmates and we call it the justice system. It is an injustice to the people who are there.

Reporter: There is a report this morning that there were seven corrections officers who were reinstated quietly with full pay and benefits, but some of them are actually going on trial soon. They were arrested in 2013 in an inmate beating. You thoughts about that? People are saying it undermines the trust that people have in the system.

Governor Cuomo: I don’t know the particulars of that case, Kristen, so I really don’t have a comment because it obviously is going to turn on the specific facts and I don’t have them. I don’t know anything beyond what I read in the newspaper.

Reporter: Let’s switch gears a little bit. Hillary Clinton will be in town today. She is meeting with Al Sharpton, that’s has been announced and there is also a fundraiser there and let’s just talk about her need to, you know, this tug of war between her and Bernie Sanders to raise donations and relying on these smaller donations, since this is a fairly big fundraiser. What can you tell us about what will happen today and you’re thoughts about how she really needs to raise money to continue this battle with Bernie Sanders?

Governor Cuomo: Well, it’s a, on a personal level, it’s going to be my pleasure to see Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton, whichever title you prefer. I was in the Cabinet of President Bill Clinton for eight years. I worked very closely with Hillary Clinton. I got to know her. We traveled to different countries together. She’s an extraordinary talent. You know, one of the disconnects is you watch these campaigns when you know the person and it’s extraordinary how the campaign still doesn’t really tell the story. This is a really talented, gifted, experienced woman who I believe would do a fantastic job as President of the United States. I’m going to do an event with her today when she comes to New York, so, it’s going to be good to see her. And she is in a primary battle with Bernie Sanders and it takes money, unfortunately, to run these campaigns and it’s way the system is designed and how the Supreme Court has interpreted the law, which is another reason why it would be good to actually have a full Supreme Court, but that’s in many ways, the nature of the beast. The primary challenge is heated. I’m confident that at the end of the day, she is going to be the nominee. I believe she is going to be the President of this great nation and I believe that she is going to do a great job and I am looking forward to seeing it.

Reporter: Well few doubt her credentials, but many are just wondering on the campaign trail, she’s not translating. What do you think it is and also what can you tell us about the fundraiser today? What details can you give us?

Governor Cuomo: Well, you know, a campaign is like a dialogue and we’re on question one right now. Question one is “Well, what is your vision for how to change society?” And people are angry. Everybody talks about that, so some candidates are offering very expansive visions of panaceas going forward. Question two is “How are you going to do that? How will you accomplish your plan?” and that’s where you’ll see Hillary Clinton shine because, she knows how to make government work. She knows how to work with both sides to actually get the “yes” and I believe she’s best suited to end this gridlock we have now, which we see even worse with the Supreme Court which polarizes everyone and stops all progress and that’s the real credential in this race – Who can end the gridlock? Who can get the “yes”? Who can get that Congress to actually operate once again and stop the politicking and find solutions where we all move forward. You know, that’s what I grapple with every day. We have a Republican Senate. We have a Democratic Assembly. If we only operated when we agree, Kristen, we would do absolutely nothing because we never agree 100 percent. It’s all about the compromise and moving forward and that’s what Hillary Clinton knows.

Reporter: Alright and in terms of the fundraiser, what’s the goal today? Obviously to raise as much as possible, I would assume, but is there a specific goal to be raised?

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, it’s to raise money. I don’t know the specifics of how much money the fundraiser is supposed to raise. I just know it’s going to be a lot of people who support her, who haven’t seen her in a long time and who are just going to enjoy being in her company and I’m going to be at the head of that parade.

Reporter: Alright, we just want to, we have about two minutes left here, but I just want to ask about Justice Scalia’s death and you have an op-ed today saying that we really need to have a vote on whoever President Obama nominates and just your thoughts.

Governor Cuomo: You know, I do think it reinforces everything we’ve bene talking about. The problem with government today is it’s dysfunctional. It’s just not working. The electorate is angry. The people are angry. I get it. There’s economic anxiety. Both ends are polarized, but the gridlock is really paralysis. That’s what this is and when the Senate says, "We won’t even consider a nominee for the Supreme Court,” they’re taking gridlock to a whole new level. They’re just defying the Constitution. They’re defying the law. What they’re saying is, “If it’s not my way, I’m not going to do it.”

Reporter: And you say put it to a vote?

Governor Cuomo: The Constitution says the President shall nominate.

Reporter: Right, and you’re just saying put it to a vote?

Governor Cuomo: Yes, and you can’t –

Reporter: Go ahead.

Governor Cuomo: Yes, you can’t say, “I’m just not following the Constitution because it’s not convenient for me.” And the great irony, Justice Scalia was all about following the Constitution and now for his replacement, you want to disregard the Constitution. It’s politics over government. It is the problem in living color for everyone to see.

Reporter: Alright, to be played out I’m sure, we’ll see this through the months ahead. Thank you so much Governor Cuomo, we appreciate your time.

Governor Cuomo: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office

Albany Press Office: 518.474.8418

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640