You are listening to the HumAIn Podcast. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and you are listening to HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now onto the show.

David Yakobovitch

Welcome back listeners to the HumAIn podcast today. Our guest is Eric Adams¹, the Brooklyn borough president. We’re having a special session where we’re talking about how Brooklyn is responding to COVID-19 around PPP, around PPE, specifically, and the services and systems to help all New Yorkers during the crisis in New York city.

I’ve been in New York for about five years everywhere, living from Queens to Brooklyn, to now Manhattan and we are living in unprecedented times. Eric, thank you so much for joining us on HumAIn. 

Eric Adams

Thank you.

David Yakobovitch

We’ve been seeing so much here at ground zero. New York has been the epicenter in the United States for COVID and there’s been a response, that we’ve seen the response from all the boroughs with technology around COVID. In your experience, whether you seeing around the city today for the response 

Eric Adams

As I stated when I often talk about the running of cities, big cities, we have to shift how we run cities and we were able historically to get away with the dysfunctionalities of cities, traditionally, they will feed a crisis and then they will have an agency that will respond to the crisis.

And I thought that in the next 20 years, as we evolved into computer learning and artificial intelligence, of that, we have to change how we run cities so we can keep pace with that. Little did I know that it was going to be expedited through COVID-19. It is my belief. That it exposed the dysfunctionalities of how we’re using an antiquated method to run cities in a modern day in the modern age.

The real fact that we’re not addressing COVID-19 in real time with real data and real on the ground response is really exposing, the dysfunctionality about large cities and I’m seeing that day to day everything from our slow response, to areas where we have high number and high number of tests that we need to do and we’re not doing, to the over-saturation of emergency rooms, ICUs, the lack of PPEs on the ground, no real system in place to ensure that they in the right location. And so I am seeing how our cities across America and in general, specifically, here in New York, how we are just not prepared to see how do you run cities in the 21st Century.  

David Yakobovitch

And although we’ve seen that, there’s a lot of response, a lot of working to work better together. We’re now starting to see that with technology transformation. We’re starting to see some of that governing in real time. As we know our Governor Cuomo has his daily briefings where we’re seeing a lot of data coming out and the data is showing potentially good signs.

Of course, it’s early to tell, but the progress seems to be good. From your experience, particularly as the Brooklyn borough president, we hear a lot in the news about Queens and Manhattan, but we don’t hear a lot about Brooklyn. How is Brooklyn doing with the response around COVID-19?

Eric Adams

And it’s so important, what you just indicated that the preliminary numbers, which are far from being the overall picture of they’re showing that we seem to be stabilized in a little way in increase in deaths, but the hospital admissions, those numbers seem to be different. But the real question to ask, when you dig into the numbers, is that all we have in a disproportionate negative impact is certain communities. When you look at the term of essential employees, over 70% of these central employees are black and brown people, we sent many of them out to drive our trains with 3-1-1 system to still allow grocery stores to do all of these essential tasks.

That those of us who can telecommute did not have to do, but then we give them the equipment that’s needed. And so when we see the decrease or the increase are we talking about specific populations over 60% of the people who died from Coronavirus are black and Brown. When we talk about the communication every day, the mayor, the governor, and the president, they do briefings on a Coronavirus. But let’s be clear. Everyone does not wake up in the morning and run and get the New York Times to listen to a briefing from the governor or the mayor. We use different methods to communicate with people in different languages. 

I’m happy to hear that the mayor has finally acknowledged this, and now he’s going to do a multi language communication to people on the ground and have different ethnic mediums and ethnic ways of communication.

And really, the system we use for the data collection and information, we need to use it to communicate with people on the ground. And that is so important. New York is not an English speaking, only city and state. We need to communicate with people where they are not where we are. And we can’t talk in an echo chamber. If we don’t, we’re not going to reach everyone. 

David Yakobovitch

Now reaching everyone is about a lot of languages. And for our audience here, Eric, we’ve had the chance to talk about AI and technology prior to COVID-19 and about the great things we want to do for the city of New York and the state of New York, but looking more immediate at a micro level here today.

We are seeing some technology startups that are excelling, that are helping our entire ecosystem, you called out food services. We’re seeing online delivery with companies like GrubHub, Fresh Direct, Uber Eats that are offering contact lists services to help each and every New Yorker have services that are not disruptive they’re uninterrupted and it’s throughout all the boroughs.

But as you mentioned, there’s a disproportionate number of minorities and other groups of people who are not part of these online services. One initiative that we’ve seen a lot of traction with in the last couple of weeks is New York City’s launched initiatives for free food for all New Yorkers. In fact, the three free meals a day. Can you share with our audience a little bit more about that? 

Eric Adams

It’s a good program and it’s a smart program. We were really addressing the three meals grabbing go program at our schools that really focus on our student population was shifting that thought. 

And with the understanding that there are a large number of people who don’t have a students in school, but they too are dealing with issues around meals and this new program is really open into people who are in need of a meal who can’t travel far to their community, and they will be able to actually get the meals. And we are encouraging people to take advantage of this, but it also showed what we were able to speak with the governor’s office to do and that was to use telemedicine and telecommunications. 

We have a large number of people in this city who are seniors. And they’re part of that vulnerable population that should not be traveling. They should be really staying in place, but they attended for many years, they attended what’s called adult daycare centers.

When those adult daycare centers were no longer able to remain open because the seniors were not coming in. We reached out to the department of health, into the Governor’s office should be using telecommuted telecommunication, telemedicine teller interaction. Number one is teaching our seniors how now to be introduced into the technology.

And two, it allows you that check that’s needed. Many deaths that we’re hearing about are people who live alone, they’re dying alone in their apartments and no one is checking in on them. And now we’re using technology in a good way to actually communicate, deal with loneliness, give out information and help people through this difficult period.

David Yakobovitch

We’ve been seeing at ground zero here in New York, that technology is helping out all people at different levels. And we’re going to dive deeper in the show about how that’s impacting education and other vulnerable populations. 

But first and foremost, we are known as being technologists. And in the government system, that change is the only constant. It’s an opportunity for growth, both for consumers and businesses, although it can seem very shocking and disrupting in the short term, there is a lot of opportunity for New York State and New York City to move forward in digital transformation. 

And in fact, when New York functions better as a city, that means America functions better as a country. In the past, you’ve used the phrase you’ve shared that we are in a fishbowl together. Can you share with our audience what you mean by that? 

Eric Adams

Well, I believe you are correct. The way goes, New York goes the country. The way goes, the country goes the globe. Our influence really impacts the entire globe. And here in the city, we’re in a fishbowl in that we all live together. 

Coronavirus is showing us that when I share the train with you, our major forms of transportation in the city, public transportation, my sneeze impacts you and your health care will impact my health as well.

And so now we have to rethink. What we’re doing in our major corporations, how do we continue a feeder system, well-trained, well-educated employees, for the future. How do we make sure that they’re trained with some of the skills that are needed for tomorrow? Critical thinking, communication?

The rope learning system is so antiquated. How do we start going after the Agrarian calendar that allows our students to be up two months and the entire school year and they have that summer slide and they’re not prepared. 

We need to start understanding that we are no longer in this distance. Office space removed from everyone else we’re in this together. And we need to make sure that our educational systems are producing great young people that could fill many of the jobs that are coming online.

We need to be prepared for the future, and we’re all in this together. Our technology, the technologies that we use must be part of preparing our future employee pool and how we run this city in an effective way.

David Yakobovitch

And running the city is a combination of consumers and businesses, or often called private public partnerships. Digital transformation, we often see it starting with enterprises, and then it trickles down to the consumers and this digital transformation.

You’ve also coined as a daunting moment for New York City. We’ve seen it a lot with our daily lives. For example, you’ve been involved in many years, not only with the government, but also with the church system in New York. What are some of the changes you’re seeing in your communities around digital transformation?

Eric Adams

Oftentimes particularly the population that was less likely to use technology. Our senior population. This is a moment where you are not compelled to embrace the technology that’s available. 

And we’re seeing that if a senior who’s living alone now and would like to see their grandchildren, they’re going to have to learn how to use WebEx or Zoom or Skype. If you want to order your food out now. Now’s an opportunity to walk you up your parents or your grandparents through UberEats or some of the other online delivery services. So the reluctance that a non-crisis allowed us to sit in the state of this is the way we’ve always done it, or that has changed.

And now you must not learn new methods of communicating. Of getting access to services and it is compelling us to go beyond our comfort zone, which is a good thing. And when you examine that, because without this crises, people were not likely to make that evolution from where they were to, where they need to move to.

David Yakobovitch

We often see, especially in the technology industry, that we are a mobile first society where we’re using our tablets or phones or computers. And we’ve said we’ve been in person second, but now it’s no longer just the tech industry. Everyone is mobile first in-person seconds. And part of that is around the education system.

We know that all New Yorkers in middle school, high school, and the entire public school system are studying remote. They’re using the software that you’ve mentioned, Erica, they’re using Zoom and Microsoft Team meetings and WebEx, and it’s a lot of learning and it’s distance learning.

Traditionally, a lot of schools have been reluctant to go online, but we’ve seen some promising early results. We’ve seen more engagement with different students. We’ve seen the opportunity to level the playing field with equity and inclusion, whether some of the hopes that you see with online education in these times.

Eric Adams

It has been really exciting. I have held a series of communications with some principals and teachers who are saying for the first time that they’re seeing some of these students that have traditionally not interacted, not participated in the classroom.

Many of them were dealing with either physical impairments or some emotional impairments, and now they are very much engaged. And many young people who were unable to get physically in a classroom for one reason or another now are able to use this space or to actually be a part of classrooms and not missing a days is so it’s imperative that we assure the infrastructure build out because we still have those vulnerable students who are in homeless shelters or in temporary housing.

We need to make sure they have the devices and the technology that they can remain engaged. So this is showing us. Where we need to go without technology to do deal with distance learning. And then the other piece here that’s important to me is that we can now extend this learning throughout the, again, the summer months, even if students who, one or two hours or during the school year, that is an exciting thought. And so we are excited that distant learning is going to take us and continue to evolve. 

David Yakobovitch

One initiative that’s been out for the last few years, that has accelerated distance learning for all New Yorkers is the LinkNYC initiative. We’ve seen it in the last few years now. 

There are hundreds of these stations and all the boroughs provide free wifi meshes all across the city. So often in the news, we’re hearing that there is not access to wifi, but we’re assuming to be in the state where wifi will be available for all New Yorkers. 

All New Yorkers will be able to use their mobile devices or even devices that will move in the next few years. With other new technology like XR, VR, AR, but some of that still early stage and as you mentioned now, as an opportunity to allow students to learn at their cadence. 

And so some of those will excel more in online by going to more advanced material and others can get more that one-on-one attention at, they typically would not get in the classroom. So it’s going to provide a lot of opportunity.

On the other end, we can also talk about the high school system and the college system. We know in the last couple of weeks, the GMAT and GRE have gone online. We’ve even heard that the Regents exams have been temporarily postponed or canceled. 

And although this is very challenging, I’m sure for a lot of parents who have their children in the school system today, it can create a lot of opportunities to embrace technology and to also know that we are more than just a number, we are more than just a test or exam.

Eric Adams

So true, and as we build out, the more we build out using the free wifi and it should be a right in all communities of the more we learn where our gaps are. And it’s important to do a GIS mapping of the entire cities.

So we can see where we are and where we need to expand to, we can’t stay in just affluent communities, or we need to make sure every night your development. It has full access. Every homeless shelter, every community, should be part of the build-out. 

The only way you could do that is to have the full scope of where you are and where you need to go to be in front of you and have plans of continuing to build out just as we pay roads, we need to pay our city with access to a real accessibility to wifi.

David Yakobovitch

We’re seeing, access to technology happening all across the board in New York city is a lot of resources that have been sprung up and in the last, just few weeks, including from tech NYC, they’ve shared a lot of resources that whether a lot of startups doing today to bridge the gap, to offer free resources for New Yorkers, whether you’re a small business owner, whether you’re in technology now.

They have this resource guide, which we’ll be sharing in the show notes to talk about tips and takeaways that every New Yorker can learn, not only around PPE, but what resources are available from the city and federal government.

One of the big initiatives that we’ve seen heralded very well in New York is the New York City Tech Coronavirus Task Force as well. And one of over 500 technologists in New York City that were working together to centralize communication, working in bridging the gap with our local city and federal government resources.

I’ve never seen such mobilization since. A long time. And I wasn’t even in New York in 9-11, but Eric, you were, and I’d love to hear your story with our audience about what was New York mobilization back then and whether we are seeing today. 

Eric Adams

It’s amazing how we mobilize. I was a Lieutenant in the police department at the time of when two planes not only struck and took down our towers, but it also took down our economy.

We went into a terrible state when mayor Bloomberg came into office, we had almost a $48 billion budget deficit and the rebuilding process really started on September 12th. Unlike the Coronavirus, where the rebuilding process is going to take a longer period of time because the strike is a longer period of time.

It’s not a one day strike. It is imperative that as we go through this crisis, we’re thinking about. How do we rebuild in the meantime, how do we look at this new norm that we are going to embrace? And how do we build our city to be smarter, wiser, stronger, to be prepared for any type of onslaught of this magnitude again. 

After nine 11 of mayor Bloomberg did an amazing job. I’m coming off of mayor Giuliani’s interaction with the city, and just went into a stage of rebuilding because they’re not infrastructure, the Wagner College of Technology over on Roosevelt Island. 

Some of the other initiatives that were put in place really bad, our, technology industry. Here in Brooklyn. In a short period of time, we had a 356% growth and new tech startups in this bottle. And that was all fed by the seeds that may have Bloomberg planted. We need to continue to plant those seeds as we respond in this crisis that we’re dealing with now.

David Yakobovitch

Let’s segue that topic to the response for startups and businesses we’ve seen on the federal and state level, a ton of resources coming out in the last few weeks, all bundled under what’s known as the CARES Act has been a lot of resources coming out there.

Some of them are very specific to New York city businesses and to consumers here, some of them that I can share with our listeners today, we have the New York city employee retention grants. We also have the 90 day mortgage relief and moratorium on evictions and some other ones I’d love to walk through some of these high levels for those who are business owners.

The employee retention grants as a first and foremost, this is for New York City that basically talks about that. If you’re willing to retain your employees, the city is willing to offer you the opportunity for your business to continue to grow and to be part of that economy. And what they’re doing is bridging the gap on payroll.

Actually from all the resources coming out, this is one of the most exciting ones that I’ve seen for the New York city government. What’s your take on the New York city employee retention grant program? 

Eric Adams

A great program because many jobs are being impacted, they want to lose employees. And if you hold onto your employees through this program for a particular period of time, you are able to take the benefits of this program. 

It’s important as we get back in gear and move from a shelter in place to. Running the city, again, everything from restaurants to small shops, it gives us an opportunity to rehire. And this is a great program, hats off to the city for the Institute. 

David Yakobovitch

It is excellent. And for everyone who’s listening live or offline for the podcast, we’ll be sharing these resources available later, so you can check them out and make sure that. You get in your applications for those who qualify for the different programs.

Other ones that exist include the 90 day mortgage relief for moratorium on evictions. A lot of the consumers are concerned if there are loads from work, if they can continue to pay their rent or what that looks like. The last few days that 90 day moratorium on evictions was just expanded for another six months.

So now it’s nine months of that moratorium. So we’re seeing a lot of proactive responses from governance in real time, thinking of all of the practical tips and strategies for everyone who’s listening today to HumAIn. In your experience and in what your government’s doing today represent Eric Adams. What are some other tips and strategies you’d like to share with our listeners? 

Eric Adams

Well, back to the moratorium. Also, if I may, it’s important right now, the moratorium is on one or two family houses. We need to expand it a little bit further and we need to add to that utility payments as well as I believe we should do a 90 day moratorium on rent as well, as long as it’s matched together with the moratorium on mortgage payments. 

We propose something for our tenants and landlords to make a deal where they can return the month’s security that tenants normally pay. This will allow an $8 billion infusion of money into our economy, which is much needed and it can assist the stabilizing. So the goal is give a three month period of stabilization.

A one month could be the return of the month security, to tenants that can pay later. The second is a three month moratorium for mortgages and rents that would give us four months where we can ride out this crisis and the largest payment that we make as New York normally lies in our rents. And this would give us an opportunity to take that off the shelf. 

We’re hoping that the city and state and federal government would look at this because this is a good way to sort of normalize the situation. And so when you go back to the tips, number one, the tips have said it has been repeated often.

It’s something that people don’t think about. I just did a PSA with a group of over 50 doctors. Who really believe in our healthcare system. And they gave us three basic tips that are very important. 

Number one, if you smoke, now’s the time to give up on it because respiratory illnesses or those pre-existing conditions could have an impact on your health for Coronavirus.

Number two, if you want some form of medication here to the regimen is extremely important now to be strict on that. And number three, something that people don’t talk about often. But a whole food plant-based diet, the more fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, or grains, or nuts that you consume in your body, it is allowing you to be a host that is unfairly friendly to a virus.

It’s not going to stop anyone from getting Coronavirus, but the stronger your immune system is the better you are at fighting off any type of virus or any type of illness. Remember this is still flu season, our body, our immune system, historically. Because the American diet is extremely compromised.

We’re saying those three tips with washing your hands repeatedly, making sure you cover your face anytime you go out and practice social distancing, all of those things combined can give you a good fight against coronavirus. 

David Yakobovitch

Speaking of the good fight, as you’re mentioning from washing hands from social distancing, because we’re all alone together beyond not smoking, beyond taking your medications and eating plant-based.

A lot of these are also things that you’ve seen in communities, and it’s very important that. We’re keeping our health to the best possible. So that centers that are being dedicated to COVID patients like the job at center and the USS comfort can focus on helping us flatten the curve as soon as possible to get the city back to, What is tomorrow.

Thinking about what’s tomorrow, we started out on today’s show talking about how an apex is almost here. It seems that flattening the curve is beginning to work. We’ve seen halfway across the world, similarly that in Wuhan, China, where the disease originally had its outbreak about 76 days ago or about 80 or so that Wuhan just opened up again.

They’ve opened up travel, they’re starting to have people going out for tourism with respect, very cautious with masks and businesses are opening. So my question today is, How can New York flatten the curve faster? Or are we ready perhaps to follow a similar pattern soon to reopen business and community?

Eric Adams

We are not out of the woods yet. There’s always a benefit of not being the first like Wuhan, China. We’re learning from the things that they did, how we can move our city to flatten the curve faster. I believe the combination of what the governor and the mayor of both the doing and all about frontline employees doing is really a Herculean task of getting the information out.

What we must do is continue to get the information out into the crevices of all of our communities. We need to try to provide personal protection equipment to all about essential employees. And I’ve said it continuously, there’s a great stock outside the country that we can get in the country. We need to utilize those relationships to get them here.

And so we can make sure that all essential employees have those items that they need to protect themselves, the public and their families. And then we can do things as everyday New Yorkers. 

Volunteer, find out where your local area volunteer, delivered food to in a very organized manner within the social distancing rules, delivering food to those seniors, your community that’s shut in, get on the phone and do a check-in call to those seniors, use technology to do FaceTime and see how seniors are doing.  Do they need things? 

It’s about communicating with the most vulnerable population and giving resources to that vulnerable population. The number states that 80% of the people who get coronavirus will cycle out of it at 20%. They are the most vulnerable population and we meet to make sure that we’re there for them as we deal with this crisis. 

David Yakobovitch

I cannot agree with you more. And there are so many resources out there that we’re just discovering today to help all of our vulnerable populations.  We’ve seen, even, not just in New York city, but the entire United States, all of America has mobilized around the project and 95 to ensure that we have.

Masks available for all of our medical workers and healthcare practitioners at all of our major hospitals and institutions. So that’s one great initiative that we’ve been seeing where people have been collaborating together across all of our digital and physical divide. 

Beyond that, in New York city, we also have an opportunity that if you’re a listener and you’d like to contribute to help the city advance its cause against COVID-19 the New York city government does have a fund where you can donate and contribute as well.

Eric Adams

That’s important because again, I continue to stay. Not only must we exist within this virus. State in this crisis, but we must exist outside of it. So we can’t make the mistakes we made during 9-11. 

When many of our offices had long standing 9-11 related illnesses, and we had to fight Congress to get them the basic medical chair and need, we need to make sure right now, while this crisis is taking place, that our healthcare officials have funds that are set up.

If there are any long-term impacts we need to make sure that our doctors and nurses have that if stuff wants to happen to them, like we saw, we lost a few healthcare professionals, even something as simple as their student loans is not passed on to their living family members. If they were to expire because of this disease.

We need to make sure that any employee that’s considered an essential employee, that they have some form of healthcare package, because this can have a long term impact that we’re not aware of now. And we don’t want to go through that similar struggle we had with our 9-11 officers who had to fight for every inch of healthcare or protection after they came down with some point of illness. 

David Yakobovitch

As we’re concluding, today’s show, we’re looking at where we are today in April, 2020. And of course it’s difficult to forecast what’s next, but, as an educator, the digital divide and the in-person divide. Is something that we can bridge four together. And whether that’s thinking of our children, whether we’re thinking of education for our teens, we might have in school or in college, or for our family that is, involved on the front lines with healthcare and medical response and emergencies.

We’re in a new period. We’re in a period now the first time in the last hundred years where all of these major holidays are coming up like Passover and Easter and Ramadan, and it is this new normal, many families this year are not going to be dining at the table together for all these holidays, but they might be on the Zoom and go to Meeting and Microsoft Team Webinars to celebrate, but it’s not necessarily celebrating the past, but celebrating the future. Eric, what message do you have for our listeners as we’re coming up on this holiday season as well? 

Eric Adams

A difficult time and challenging time. And I am encouraging people to use technology is one thing it’s so strange that we tell people to keep their distance, but at the same time, we tell them to be closer to each other and we can still do that.

Just as you and I are communicating right now, your listeners are hearing us from across the globe and if not internationally. That is what we encourage people to do. I’m going to attend a session with a good friend and we’re going to do it through Zoom. My family is going to sit down around Easter.

We’re going to communicate through Skype so you don’t have to break your traditional bonds of coming together as a family, we just have to be more creative in doing so, so that we can ensure that there have been many more Sadie’s many more Passovers, many more Easters that we can enjoy each other. 

We do that by following the social distance rules and by following what is needed, to ensure that we are all safe and we defeat Coronavirus, we can get through this.

We are a resilient community, city and country, we’ve had hard times before and all we have to do is come together. Show a level of compassion, commitment, and dedication, not only to each other, but to ourselves. 

There’s a reason when you get on a plane, the airline personnel states that before you put the mask on someone, you’re traveling with, put it on yourself first during an emergency, because we’re no good to anyone. If we’re not good to ourselves. 

David Yakobovitch

That is exactly what is making us all human and making us all collaborate together. And as we’re listening here in April, 2020, I’m hopeful the message that has been move into the next few months. There’s going to be more collaborations, more teamwork, and we’re going to rise together in this new digital transformation. Representative, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. Thank you for being with us today on HumAIn. 

Eric Adams

Thank you very much.

David Yakobovitch

Thank you for listening to this episode of the HumAIn podcast. What do you think? Did the show measure up to your thoughts on artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education listeners. I want to hear from you so that I can offer you the most relevant trend setting and educational content on the market.

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Works Cited

¹Eric Adams  

Companies Cited

New York State Senate