New York's elected officials are playing political games and the public's health may suffer. NYC Mayor and NY Governor were not speaking directly, while BBP told the press all hands on deck. OK, but what bout our lungs? What the hell is going on folks. WTF Do you believe this crap?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called into NY1 and spoke with Roma Torre about Legionnaires’ Disease, among other topics. Audio of the Governor’s call in is available here, and a rush transcript of the interview is provided below:
Roma Torre: The CDC is in the city today to help combat the Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in the Bronx. Governor Andrew Cuomo is joining us now by phone to discuss the steps that are being taken. Governor taking you for taking the time to speak with us here on NY1.
Governor Cuomo: My pleasure Roma, always good to be with you.
Roma Torre: Same. So Governor people, in the city in particularly in the south Bronx, are very concerned about this potentially fatal disease. What can you say to allay their fears?
Governor Cuomo: First Roma, I think that they have a good reason to be concerned. This has been going on for a number of days. Ten people have passed away, so I understand the anxiety. It is almost like a bad science fiction movie. Borough President Ruben Diaz called me the other day and he said that he thought the situation was escalating and could we help. We are now fully mobilized. We just had a very good meeting with the CDC in my office in Manhattan. I reached out to the CDC – Center for Disease Control – Dr. Frieden, who is the national head, he sent a team today, we are meeting with the team today, tomorrow we are starting a massive testing effort in that immediate vicinity where we will actually have a coordinated testing program where we will send people out to test these cooling towers to determine if there is a source of bacteria or not. I also said that the state would provide testing free of charge to any of these building owners who want to have their cooling towers tested. But we are taking matters into our own hands. We will be deploying teams starting tomorrow, we will stay with it and we will stay with it until we understand it and the source in this area and then I was also talking to the CDC about learning from this unfortunate lesson – making changes and reforms going forward as an example, we don’t know where the cooling towers are. We are going through an exercise now where we are literally going building by building to identify the cooling towers. There is not register of cooling towers. New Rochelle in Westchester, a city in Westchester, actually has a registry of cooling towers. The CDC says they have research with technology that can be used with these cooling towers where you filter the mist so that the bacterium is not disseminated. So we cannot go through this again, we want to learn from this and we will and I anticipate passing statewide regulations because this is not just New York City. Also a deep breath and context, this happens almost every year, this is all across the state it is all across the country, this is the most significant outbreak we have ever had in the Bronx, but it is not that this is a freak occurrence either. So we are going to come up with a statewide protocol to make sure we are in better shape the next time an outbreak like this happens.
Roma Torre: Alright, well the outbreak did occur here in the city and the mayor has been criticized for a slow response to the epidemic should the city have taken steps quicker to remedy this outbreak?
Governor Cuomo: You know Roma, I don’t think I am in a position to say or judge, I don’t know what exactly they did or plan and I am not a health professional. I know that from my point of view this situation became critical. The borough president was very eloquent frankly in explaining the anxiety among people and one of the things I learned over the years is that in a situation like this and you are dealing with really two things; you are dealing with the underlying problem but you are also dealing with the reaction of the body politic. When I was in Washington, I was in President Clinton’s cabinet for eight years as the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, we did national emergency response. Hurricanes, floods etc., and a very wise fellow once told me when I was a very young man, you are dealing with the underlying problem but even more you are dealing with the people. So you are dealing with a hurricane but you are dealing with the people and you want to make sure that people feel comfortable and confident that government is in control. You want to reduce the anxiety and reduce the fear. In the Bronx, we have both. We have a legitimate underlying problem with this Legionnaires outbreak but we have a growing issue of anxiety and people feeling that they’re not getting answers. The CDC coming up tomorrow they will see a large mobilization in the area. They’ll see teams; they’ll see people going out. Hopefully they’ll see your broadcast, they’ll hear this interview and we want to bring down the fear.
Roma Torre: Governor, I know you personally invited the CDC to come here to the city to look into the problem but have you spoken to the Mayor directly to coordinate efforts to combat the spread of the disease?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, we are fully coordinated on every level. Our health commissioners are working together. He has something called the first deputy mayor, I have something called the secretary, and they’re talking. So everyone’s talking to everyone and we’re all fully coordinated. I’ve spoken to the mayor so we’re fully coordinated.
Roma Torre: On another issue here, I understand you send a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to help jump-start the long overdue project dealing with that century old rail tunnel over the Hudson River which is causing commuters so many headaches in recent days. What is the progress of any future project that is so desperately needed?
Governor Cuomo: Right now the prospect is not especially bright, let me say it that way to be charitable. Look, everyone understands we need a new tunnel, a cross Hudson rail tunnel. The current tunnels need repairs the problem is there is not substitute so that if you close down one tunnel for repairs there is another tunnel to run the trains. We actually do have two tunnels but it was so overload the other tunnel that the delays would be terrible so we need to build a new tunnel. The estimate for a new tunnel is somewhere in the range of 10-14 billion with a b dollars.
Roma Torre: And where is that money going to come from?
Governor Cuomo: That is my question. New Jersey can’t pay and I can’t pay and if we ever tried to put that cost on the back of the Amtrak passengers or the NJ Transit passengers it would make the price of a ticket explode. Federal government sent a letter saying, “We need to build a tunnel because it’s an Amtrak tunnel and it’s a tunnel that is important for the whole northeast corridor.” And the federal government said, “we will help with the funding,” or words to that effect. We’ve had a number of meetings. The funding help turns out to be a loan. We don’t need a loan. Thank you, but no thank you. I need help paying the loan, I don’t need a mortgage, I need help buying the house because I can’t afford the mortgage so I’m asking the federal government if they’re serious, and they should be serious by the way because this is not a New York-New Jersey issue, this is a northeast issue. If this tunnel goes down, Amtrak for the entire northeast part of the country is disrupted and a loan is not enough. We need a grant to reduce the cost of the tunnel and they have thus far for years been unwilling to come up with a real grant and we don’t need the loan. I can do the loan, we can float bonds. I need a grant.
Roma Torre: And it sounds like it’s going to be many years before we even get started with a possible project let alone one that would be completed in our life time. Let’s hope that happens. I just wanted to ask you one other question. Yesterday we heard from Senator Charles Schumer who announced he has decided to vote against the president’s Iranian nuclear deal. Any thoughts, what’s your response on that?
Governor Cuomo: I respect the Senator’s decision. I read his piece and he’s thought it through and he has a persuasive case. This is a very difficult and very important issue. If Iran had nuclear bomb capacity the world would be a much more threatened place. I think this debate is very important, I know we have different opinions among our congressional delegation. I know the senators are split. But it's a crucial debate and it's one that I'm going to be following very closely.
Roma Torre: Finally, Governor, we were very sorry to hear that Sandra Lee was hospitalized earlier this week. I understand she is still in the hospital. How is she doing?
Governor Cuomo: You know – when you're in the hospital it's never great. She's in a great hospital and they are trying the best they can. But thank you for your concern. She will be fine. She had a mastectomy about 11 weeks ago. She's been working through that and we have a couple of complications pursuant to that. But her spirits are good and she is a very "up" personality and that's been helpful. She's optimistic, and she's tough and she's a fighter and I believe she is going to be coming home in the next couple of days. But this is a long road. I frankly had not dealt a lot with breast cancer, fortunately, in the past. None of the people in my family had been affected, which is unusual given the statistics. But it is a terrible disease, the cancer obviously, but then the emotional impact, the reconstructive aspect of it. It is really a tough, tough and long road.
I have tremendous respect for the women who have dealt with this. I'm going to get very involved in the issue itself. I have respect for the caregivers who work with victims of breast cancer and the families who are there to support them. This can be a one-year process by the time you turn around. Since Sandy had this issue, I think she did a great public service in talking about it and tweeting about it, social media. I've had women in my office, Roma, go for testing because of Sandy's experience and I've had women in their 30s find out that they had breast cancer. They wouldn't have had the test but for Sandy's experience. If you track from that first diagnosis and the trauma of that first conversation. Talking to doctors, and interviewing doctors, and then what treatment is right, and how radical, and the pros and the cons, and then reconstruction – it's 9 months, 10 months, a year. This is a difficult, difficult period and the support of the family, of the friends is so vital I believe. Everybody knows I work as hard as anybody out there and I always have and that's the school of thought I came from. My father, God rest his soul, was a 7-day-a-week work type person, and that was before BlackBerrys and everything else. That was with the telephone with the long cord, where you could go from the kitchen almost all around the house with the cord. So I work, but on this I've made it a point of spending time in the hospital. I've been with Sandy in the hospital, and I'm going to take her home from the hospital. I've been spending time helping her at home. First things first, and family first, and community starts with family, right? I'm doing everything I can, but I thank you for your good wishes. I thank all New Yorkers – they have been fantastic. I can't tell you how many letters and emails and tweets, and people have come up to me on the street. I love New Yorkers and I love being a New Yorker. They are the warmest, and they all talk about how tough we are, we are the warmest most collegial group when one of us is in trouble. It's a beautiful thing to see.
Roma Torre: I can personally relate to that. Governor Cuomo, thank you so much for spending some time with us. We wish Sandra Lee a speedy recovery, and all the best to you. Thank you again.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much, thank you Roma.
Additional news available at www.governor.ny.gov
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OK. but where is NYC Mayor de Blasio? Editorial: Mayor of Gloom City http://nydn.us/1eW3b78
Meanwhile. Ruben Diaz, BP The Bronx says “I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker for their quick response as we deal with the Legionnaires' outbreak affecting The Bronx, and for bringing the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to my borough to study this public health crisis.
“We need all hands on deck, and getting help from the CDC is a huge step in combating this disease that is hurting the South Bronx. Gov. Cuomo’s offer of free testing for building owners, the legislation that Council Member Vanessa Gibson and I have proposed to ensure that we are proactive against the further spread of the Legionnaires Disease, and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for testing buildings throughout the city are all positive steps forward in eliminating this problem while finding solutions to prevent yet another outbreak.
“I am happy to learn that we are seeing fewer new cases of this disease, and I look forward to continuing my work with the city and the state to mitigate this crisis and prevent future outbreaks. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those affected by this disease, and I wish them a speedy recovery,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
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