NYC's Road To Reopening | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts

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NYC's Road To Reopening | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts

♪ [Opening Music] ♪ >>> I’m Sam Roberts of the New York Times and welcome to a video conference edition of the New York Times Close Up After nearly three months of coronavirus lockdown, New York City has begun to open its economy if only by a little bit The hope is that between 200 and 400,000 people would return to work in the first phase But the subways are still closed overnight for disinfecting And there’s a big question about what the riders will risk the COVID virus to come back Broadway hopes to reopen after Labor Day, but many think theaters will be closed until January Tourism gives the city $70 billion a year in economic activity, but that industry has basically evaporated And all of this is happening against the background of big, mostly peaceful, but sometimes violent protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police There was looting all over the city with luxury stores in Soho hit hard Macy’s in Herald square was vandalized, and we saw a video of cops arresting looters who had broken into the iconic store How will this re-opening work out? Can it jumpstart the city’s economy? And how has the mayor been performing through all of this? We’re lucky to have an all-star team from the Times‘ Metro desk to talk about it J. David Goodman, a Metro reporter for the New York Times Matthew Haag, also a Metro reporter, and Jeff Mays, a Metro political reporter for the Times David we are seeing the city beginning to reopen The city has been declared dead many times before after the fiscal crisis, after 9/11 What seems to be different this time? >>> This time when you have a crisis that is not ending I mean, those other crises, it’s more akin to the fiscal crisis, I suppose, than 9/11 in the sense that this is not an acute crisis, but one that is deep and long lasting and doesn’t show an immediate sign of ending This pandemic is still with us You know, I think a lot of people, so it could be forgiven for having forgotten it or thought less about it in the wake of the protest and the urgent need for police reform that we’ve all seen in the last few weeks, but we’re still dealing with this pandemic that it’s changed life at every level and to come back from something like that, it’s just not as simple as even coming back from a major terrorist attack,which is saying something One person I interviewed at one point said it was like having a 9/11 every day And I think so many of the major sectors have been so decimated that climbing back out is not going to be a process of a few, you know, weeks or months, but really a couple of years >>> Matthew, you reported extensively on the impact of the real estate industry Lots of people not paying their rents, both residential and commercial What’s going to be the impact of that? Are there going to be more stores vacant? Are retailers going to go out of business because people are going to do more shopping online? Is there going to be commercial rent control in some form? What is the likely outcome do you think? >>> Well, as David alluded to there’s so many huge moments, like once in a lifetime moments all colliding together You have people unable to pay rent at the same time There’s this huge experiment of so many people wereworking from home And so you have offices rethinking the whole idea of having office spaces, whether they need as much or perhaps even more to have space between their coworkers And you just have streets that are lined if not up with plywood because of the looting, but lined with just The doors are down and they can’t pay rent They’re asking for leniency The landlords are in a hard spot, so they can’t provide leniency And so it’s a real dire situation on so many stretches of major thoroughfares in all boroughs with a lot of questions about whether these restaurants and stores will ever reopen, even if it’s slightly this week, if whether they will be able to reopen to the way they were >>> Jeffrey, this was the first mayor, Mayor de Blasio, who I’ve seen, who was a progressive, who actually inherited an administration who had some money Now he’s $9 billion in the hole, dealing with lots of issues that he didn’t expect to and are not necessarily of his making How has he been handling the pandemic and how is he handling the racial issues that he sort of started off, one would think,

with a pool of Goodwill on.>>> Yeah It’s been a difficult road for him because, you know, as my colleagues have said, you’ve seen this influence of factors where people saw the racial disparities exposed that the coronavirus pandemic was showing where, you know, Black and Latino people are dying at twice the rate of white people And we also see the neighborhoods that are really suffering from this disease And then on top of that, you had George Floyd’s death, which raised a whole raft of issues around fair policing, which has long been an issue in New York City It raised comparisons to the death of Eric Garner You know, both men uttered, I can’t breathe as they died at the hands of police So this has been a difficult time for the mayor and, you know, a lot of his critics believe he has not handled it well You know, early on he really supported police, many people believed over protestors, in some of the incidents that were happening There were some peaceful protests where police have been caught on video, you know, acting violently towards protesters And recent days after a really strong backlash, the mayor has stepped back a little bit He’s announced some plans to possibly cut the NYPD budget a little bit And yesterday, an officer who pushed the protester was arrested as well So, you know, this is really unprecedented in a lot of ways and the way these two things are colliding, but, you know, many critics believe the mayor has a long way to go in order to try to make things right >>> David, it seems like pretty much everyone, except the police unions, agrees that making police officers disciplinary records public, or making them accessible, sounds like a good idea But what about this cutting of the police budget? Does that seem to be sort of a knee jerk reflexive response? What do we gain from doing that, particularly if crime starts going up again, is that going to look like a misguided step? >>> I actually, I don’t think it’s a knee jerk reaction at all I mean, this is a moment where every part of every, you know, municipal government is thinking about how to save money and cut And so I think it’s only natural that you would look there even without these protests And of course these protest have pointed out how much money has been poured into police as it’s not been spent in the same communities on education and other services And so to, to say that maybe we should rethink our balance, I think it’s fair One thing that hasn’t really fully been grappled with is if you look at the police budget, it’s about $6 billion, but about 5.2 billion of it is the headcount, is the actual people that work there And so I think when you start talking about what we’re going to cut, officer’s, no one’s really talking about it that way, at least on the political side, I think that’s what it means, but it’s not quite as direct And I think that’s a little bit less palatable I think people can understand or, or maybe easily support, Hey, let’s not give officers this equipment They should really be out there, you know, on thestreet talking to people But when you start saying we should shrink the size of the police force, which really is what we’re talking about, I think that’s a little bit more difficult politically for thereasons that you point out Although I think there’s a real case to be made that maybe having this giant department isn’t necessary in New York City at a time of low crime I mean, but by the same token, we in the city, I should say expanded the size of its police force in 2015 and many of the same council members are calling to defund the, the police department that they voted to grow only five years ago And the crime was just as low or, or nearly just as low then >>> Matthew, we’re talking about a lots of benefits coming from the federal government, and we still need a lot more How effectively are those benefits being distributed? You had a marvelous story the other day about that long line at the ATM machine Is that money being handed out in an efficient way and frankly is it enough? >>> Well, to the, in the state’s defense, this was an unprecedented time that all just collapsed in late March and the number of claims and the hundreds of thousands of millions in just a few short weeks, just overwhelm the system They didn’t even have enough people to answer the calls The calls would just drop The systems that were supposed to send out the checks and debit cards with unemployment benefits just failed And so they have caught up in one instance, but there are still lingering issues that we hear from people all the time And, and one of the just stark reminders of just how dire it is for the vast majority of people who have suffered through this crisis is this one line at this ATM in Manhattan It’s a Key Bank, the vendor for the state, that either sends out via their own debit card for purposes of getting unemployment, or they also help with sending direct deposits And it’s remarkable in a city of 8 million people the state has partnered with a bank out of Cleveland

that has one site, one ATM They can use other ATM‘s, but when you stand in line and meet these people, a lot of them speak a little English and they don’t understand the documentation that came with their card And it’s quite dire to hear from these people that they’ve been waiting eight weeks for their card They’ve been relying on friends and family and even their own savings, depleting it And it’s, it shows that as we reopened the economy, the depths that so many of our neighbors we’ll need to climb out of is just monumental >>> What’s been the reaction by the state to your article? Has anything changed? Has anything gotten better? >>> Well, they have been very defensive Casting this as unprecedented times, which it’s indeed true They are sending people out, for this one issue, they’re sending people out this week to that Key Bank to remind people in line, and it’s hundreds of people every day through rain, all sorts of weather before the sun comes up, after the sun goes down, to remind them there are other ATM‘s, there are other ways to use their benefits and access them But they’ve had this contract for about five years now with Key Bank, which works for with other states as well, but they won over Bank of America and Bank of America pointed out in an appeal to losing this bid, that Bank of America’s ATM network, bank network, was far larger and in their opinion, superior than Key Bank So there were a lot of issues There were people in line you meet who don’t even have computers to see where they can use other ATM‘s It‘s a, it’s a huge issue >>> David, you wrote a story a couple of months ago saying that the commissioner of small business said, I don’t think the New York that we left, we’ll be back for some years Now on top of that, we have the protests Obviously there will be some economic impact from that What is the long term outlook likely to be? I know this is a lot of guesswork, but what is New York going to look like say even a year from now? >>> I think a year from now scenario is actually one of the more difficult to predict If you look at what the, due to the independent budget office has said, they’ve, they’ve said there’s not going to be any job growth of any kind in New York until about 2022 So we’re really looking at a long, long term losses and a real long claw back So I think in a year we’re going to be, you know, much in the same sort of cautious, you know, openness that some people have started to engage in You know, going out to parks I was out in Long Island City and then the waterfront over the weekend, two weekends ago And I was actually frankly shocked at how many people were out, many without masks, sort of enjoying themselves And I think people are really fed up and going to be looking, I think, as we enter into phase two and phase three, to really take advantage of the things that are suddenly available andtake cues from the government If they say it’s safe to do things, I think people willstart to do those things But in terms of the economy clawing back, I mean, I think all the long term predictions are that it’s going totake a while to get there >>> And Jeffrey you, the mayors being more against doing the kind of borrowing that got us into the fiscal crisis back in the seventies, using borrowing to pay for operating expenses Has he abandoned that yet? >>> No, I think the mayor is hoping to use that as a last resort, you know, if a fiscal stimulus doesn’t come through from the federal government He wants to have that money available You know, he’s pointed out that Mayor Bloomberg after 9/11 received similar authority to borrow They’ve pointed out that, you know, the city a couple of months ago got its highest bond rating ever I think the concern that we’re hearing is that the mayor has not done enough to cut the existing budget Many people believe that there are more areas of spending that he can go in and cut down It’s not going to get him $9 billion, but, you know, some people, the controller have projected that, you know, there’s at least a billion dollars more that the mayor could cut and the city council speaker as well, they’ve urged the mayor to go back into the budget and cut some more while preserving some of the priorities that they think are important right now So for example, the city canceled the summer youth employment program, which is an important program in the city A lot of poor young people use that to earn money for their family It’s about $125 million The mayor cut that from his executive budget And so people like the council, the controller, are saying, we need to have certain priorities There are cuts that could be made, but there are certain cuts that should not be made >>> Let me ask you too, people sort of forget all of this, but we do have a primary coming up later this month And also of course, the mayoral election next year Do we see any political impact yet from both the pandemic

and the racial unrest?>>> Yeah I mean, I think the mayor’s race is going to change You know, I think people see a situation, originally people thought, you know, the mayor was going to ride out these last 18 months, you know, people were predicting some sort of economic turmoil on the horizon, but nothing like this So whoever really is mayor now is going to have to present an argument that, you know, they can not only help the city recover, but they may have to reimagine how the city works Everything from schools, to transportation There is not going to be this rosy budget picture at all It’s going to be years before a lot of these tax revenues, sales tax revenues, return to the city And then on the upcoming primaries, you know, the issue of policing has become a major issue The legislature yesterday just repealed a secrecy law that prevented them from releasing information on police discipline And that is going to be a major issue How we police the city, and even around the country actually going forward, those are all going to be majored issues in those elections >>> Thanks to the three of you for joining us from the New York Times Jeff Mays, David Goodman, and Matthew Haag Coming up next, Trump versus the world with our great columnist from the New York Times Donald Trump has his hands full on the domestic front, more than a hundred thousand dead from the coronavirus, more than 40 million jobs lost since February, and major protests in dozens of American cities over police brutality against Blacks And on the foreign policy front, Germany’s Angela Merkel snubbed Trump‘s invitation to a G7 summit that he badly wanted to hold at Camp David, dramatizing his isolation on the world stage But it’s relations with China that are on the front burner They seem to be the worst in years China brewed plans to crack down on Hong Kong, imposing a tough and controversial new security law Trump responded by cutting back special commercial relations with Hong Kong, even severing ties with the W.H.O Trump has swung back and forth between talking tough on China and sucking up The Times‘ Bret Stephens has some ideas on how to respond to China’s aggressive moves Here are some of them, quote “Sanctioned Chinese officials engaged in human- rights abuses in Hong Kong Upgrade relations with Taiwan, increase arms sales, including top shelf weapons’ systems…Reenter the Trans- Pacific Partnership as a counter to China’s economic influence.” Let’s talk about Trump versus the world with Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize winning Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times Bret, you liken China‘s moves to Germany, reoccupying the Rhineland Is that a fair comparison? >>> Well, it’s not a perfect comparison Sam and all of these historical comparisons always lack for something, but it has, it has this in common; the Rhineland was supposed to be a separate zone in which Germany observed different rules in the 1920s and 30s under the terms of the Versailles agreement, just as Hong Kong was supposed to be a separate administrative region for China under the terms of the 1984 Sino-British declaration The Chinese have flagrantly violated those rules in a way that isn’t simply an assertion of power, but it’s really sort of testing the will of the Western world, whether it was France and Britain back in the 30s or the United States and our allies today to see if we’re going to do anything And I realized that we’re a country that feels like it has its hands full Sam, with so many of our domestic, serious domestic, problems But this is a real challenge for the entire free world There are 7 million people in Hong Kong They are, any of us who know and love the city, a beacon of freedom and enterprise and a beacon of light for much of the rest of China Are we going to do anything or not? And I fear that the one step that the Trump administration has taken does more to punish the people of Hong Kong than it does the rulers in Beijing >>> You looked at the video involving George Floyd and you said you were struck more than anything, in fact,

you said “it shook me to the core,” watching the other cops stand by and do nothing while he was out of breath Do you think anything is really going to change because of this? We have seen so many of these episodes before We have seen riots before We have seen police abuse before Is there anything that makes this one different? >>> Well, I hope so because it wasn’t simply the case that there was one sadistic cop who was basically killing an unarmed man in, in, in cold blood It was that quality that is really so chilling that other people in positions to stop him, stood by and do nothing I know there’s the myth of Kitty Genovese, but it felt almost like a Kitty Genovese moment, at least in its mythical sense where no one was prepared to intervene, despite someone who was clearly in moral distress And I think it has galvanized the country in a way that no racial incident in recent years has done in quite the same way And rightly so, it’s clearly a call for all of us, not only for police reform, but I have to say for all of us in America, especially for white America, to take a very sort of close and introspective look at what we have failed to be seeing that so many of our Black friends and colleagues have been, have been telling us, and somehow, we haven’t been listening closely enough That’s certainly on my mind too >>> You described Trump as our national catastrophe and you said he doesn’t lead his base as most politicians do, he personifies it But doesn’t it worry you that nearly half the population is his base? >>> Well, of course it does I mean, I think that I’m still in shock from, from 2016 and, and I realize that means that I must be in some deep sense out of touch, but I still find it hard to square the election of someone so nakedly demagogic and ill-informed with the America that I imagined that would, you know, what, what’s the, what, what’s the word of the title of that old play, it can’t happen here And it’s not just that he, he, he personifies the base, but I think he also, he degrades it You know, I’ve always been struck like so many of us were students of political rhetoric, but by that wonderful line in Lincoln’s first inaugural, when he speaks about the better angels of our nature and it is, I think it has been the job of every president on either side to try to elevate the better angels of our nature, whether it was Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City or George W Bush after 9/11 or, or president Obama after, after Sandy Hook and the Charleston massacre And this is the first time that we haven’t seen that So I’m not, I don’t blame President Trump for all of the nation’s wounds, but I think he is the reason why those wounds cannot heal >>> We’re seeing what might be some cracks in the Republican solid wall supporting him When you look at Jim Mattis, when you look at Lisa Murkowski, does that hearten in you at all? Or are those just aberrations? >>> Well, you know, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve, walked to, I’ve kind of marched my way to so many mirage oases in the desert there hoping that one or two Republicans showing courage would, would change the thinking of the party, but if Trump’s should lose and now I think that’s becoming increasingly likely, something I wouldn‘t have said just two or three weeks, two or three weeks ago, he will be abandoned in total and the same Republican politicians who have been following him lock step and cheering as he’s quote unquote “owns the libs” are going to look back in horror at what they have participated in And I can only say that I’m glad as someone who’s fairly conservative Sam on, on many issues, that I never participated in that form of politics It demeans us and it means that what what’s best, whatever remains best in the Republican party >>> You’ve also said that this was a week or two ago that you were left with the sinking feeling that somehow he’s going find a way to profit from all of this racial unrest politically Do you still think so? >>> Well, look, I have been convinced that Trump, so many times before Sam, that Trump had done himself in by some by some, by something or other, whether it was the Billy Bush tape or the, or the horror of his comments about Charlottesville, one thing or another, that perhaps it’s a

reflex action on my part that the demagogue always finds a way to profit from national misery And I’m not ruling that out You know, I will say that these calls to abolish or defund the police are a political gift to Trump voters who fear the overreaction, an overreaction on the part of protestors that could lead to sort of return of 1970s, no law and order, you know, rising crime, and so on And so Trump has been, has been ill served by his own impulses, but he’s often well-served by the overreaction of his adversaries And what I hope is that people like Joe Biden and whoever he chooses his running mate are going to keep a steady head and project a sense of calm and sobriety, which is what I thinkreally the moment requires >>> Bret Stephens, thank you so much for joining us and for the New York Times and CUNY TV, I am Sam Roberts ♪ [Closing Music] ♪