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Explosion, Fire at Minneapolis Apartments; NYC Mayor De Blasio Sworn In; De Blasio Seeks to Eliminate Horse-Drawn Carriages in NYC; Cold Weather Moves Into the Northeast; Crime Down in Chicago

Aired January 1, 2014 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to New York City. It is the morning after the night before. I know you all saw it. Times Square was rocking last night. And some of these people might just be waking up this morning.

And there's a lot to get caught up on. Happy New Year - it's officially 2014, and it's January 1st, in case you missed it. There's a lot going on all around the country and right here in New York City, where it is a balmy 26 degrees. That's not bad considering where we're going. There's a lot of cold weather on the way for people all up and down. Not only the Eastern Seaboard but also in the Midwest. I'm going to tell you all about what's on the way and how much snow you could get and how the deep freeze is hitting -- hello, Canada. Thanks fort he gift.

Also, want to get you up to speed on a brand-new mayor sworn in in the Big Apple and why it means something to you even if you're in Nebraska or California or hey, North Dakota, warm up. We've got a big conversation coming.

First, though, I want to take you to Minneapolis where we have some breaking news that happened just within the last couple of hours. Take a look at your screen, some intense pictures of a building fire, this following a reported explosion.

And here is what's so significant about this. Several people, as the EMS reported to CNN, live, just moments ago are actually injured because of falling out of the upper story window, second and third floor windows.

The EMS official told us he wasn't sure if they had fallen, jumped or actually were pushed out due to the explosion, but roughly 13 people are being treated for trauma at local centers in Minneapolis.

Fire still smoldering, and then think about this, with plummeting temperatures, firefighters have to deal with the freezing conditions while they fight that fire. So, there's a lot they're trying to deal with.

There are severe burns among the trauma victims, and then, of course, those who injured -- were injured because of their falls.

I want to go live to our Ted Rowlands who is racing to the scene as we speak. I'm going to get you on the telephone, I think, because you're almost there, Ted.

But what more can you tell me?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Ashleigh, basically, the pictures tell it all. This is a three-story apartment building, and officials said they did get the call of an explosion at 8:20 local time, about an hour and a half ago.

Thirteen people have been taken to Hennepin County Emergency Medical Center where they are being treated. Several of those people, according to a spokesman, are in critical conditions.

And as you mentioned, some of those injuries are from people leaving either the second or third floor, but they don't know if they were pushed out by the blast or if they jumped because of the fire or if they were pushed by someone trying to save them. That's going to be sorted out later.

It's still an active scene. And as you mentioned, the cold temperatures are creating issues for firefighters.

They're not sure if there are more people in the apartment complex. They're trying to get a hold of the fire to get in there to see exactly what's the deal in terms of potential victims still inside.

As you said earlier, an active scene going on in Minneapolis right now.

BANFIELD: Ted, that's just very distressing to hear. And, of course, it's New Year's Day, so a lot of people might have been staying home. And, as you mentioned, firefighters still trying to figure out if there's anyone left in that building.

But let's just be very clear here. So far -- so far -- and this is a developing story, there aren't any fatalities and we are crossing our fingers that that's going to remain the fact.

Ted Rowlands, reporting live for us, check in with us when you get to the scene and when you find other developing details, as well.

I want to move on to another big story that's developing here, and, of course, that story is a brand new mayor is in town.

And it did not take long after the ball dropped in Times Square for Mayor Bill de Blasio -- get used to saying it -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to be officially sworn in by the outgoing mayor, Mayor Bloomberg.

Susan Candiotti's been watching the story. I don't know if you've slept, because I know you've been on this story since the beginning.

He was sworn in last night and I think a lot of people, Susan, would say, look, that's New York's mayor. Why does it matter to me if I'm in another far-flung part of this country?

But it does. Why? SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does because a lot of the policies that he integrates will be watched very closely, that's one main reason, to see whether they can work in other cities across the United States.

This is someone who's also made his family a big part of his campaign and he said he wants sweeping changes in the way the city is run.

He wants to tax the wealthy to help pay for education -- that's one of the main things he wants to do -- and get rid of the very conversational stop-and-frisk policy.

But back to his family. He was sworn in outside his home where his campaign began with his wife and two children at his side.

BANFIELD: All mixed race.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly. On the street. And here's what he said at the time.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY: I want to say to all of you how grateful we are.

From the beginning, this has been our family together, reaching out to the people of this city to make a change that we all needed.


CANDIOTTI: He also brought in the -- as new police commissioner to replace Commissioner Ray Kelly, William Bratton, who also previously served as police commissioner of New York City.

BANFIELD: I feel like we've been talking about Bill Bratton for, what, 25 years at least, right?

CANDIOTTI: A very long time.

BANFIELD: One coast or the other.

And look how cold it is?

CANDIOTTI: Oh, yeah. I'm not overcome. I'm not emotional. It's just the cold.

BANFIELD: Not hung over?

CANDIOTTI: Not that either, never.

BANFIELD: Just in case, you wanted to make sure that Midwin Charles was handy, as well.

Midway's a prominent defense attorney here in New York City. She knows a lot about politics. I've also known you for way too long, longer than I say I am old. But this is a really significant issue when it comes to what some will say is the uber-liberalization of the New York machine and how other communities around this country are going to be watching closely as to how successful or not successful he might be.

MIDWIN CHARLES, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think they are. One of the things that Bill de Blasio did that I thought was very interesting, during his campaign he ran on the message that New York belongs to everyone. It isn't just for the select few. It isn't just for those who are rich and successful.

And, so, I think that a lot of people are going to see whether or not the policies he puts into place that mirror that sort of campaign message, whether or not they will actually be effective.

BANFIELD: So, people like to see, can you just rule by fiat? Do you just say it ain't so and then it ain't so?

He has said, right off the bat, he doesn't want horse-drawn carriages, but you can't just declare that, can you?

CHARLES: To a certain extent you can. He is the mayor.

If it's shown that these horses, as gorgeous as they are, are perhaps not treated properly or inhumane in the manner in which they're treated, then it's possible it's something they can do.

Now, I personally think, as a native New Yorker, it'd be sad to see them go. Perhaps the law can be limited where they remain in the Park instead of being on the street.

BANFIELD: There are a lot of people who disagree with you, and obviously a lot of guys who make their living here.

Some of these guys have been driving for more than three decades, and we're going to talk a lot more about that in a moment.

Before I do, though, real quickly, when you said the tax-the-rich issue, this city is rich. I mean, these apartments on Central Park South, you have to be rich to live in this city.

What does that mean for all those businesses? Are they going to up and leave? Are there threats?

CANDIOTTI: That's the fear, and, yes, there are threats. But de Blasio feels -- the new mayor feels that this city can take it.

It's grown tremendously under Mayor Bloomberg, economically speaking, but as you said, he wants to even the playing field.

BANFIELD: Mayor Bloomberg did a couple of things that were pretty controversial, too, though -- the soda ban, no smoking in the bars -- and so far people are saying those are pretty successful.

As this guy wheels out and heads forward, another one comes in, takes his place. If you have been to Central Park South, you've seen these carriages. Midway just said, it's kind of part of the culture here.

People love them; people hate them. And you know what? There was no shortage of opinion when we decided to tap in. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, I thought he would be a more conscientious mayor, a more "people mayor," bringing the city together.

But these horses and carriages, they should leave there, because they're tradition. Tourists, children of all ages, of all cultures have been riding these horses, and these horses need a purpose. Just like we all need a purpose, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get rid of the horses, you know where they're going. To the glue factory. And we don't want that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually thinking about it on the way on the ride here. Both about the environment and all the gases from the cars.

And even it's really nice to get on the cab drive with the horse, I think maybe it's a good thing to not have it in the city where the car is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter what they say, the horses are really not kept in a good condition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The horses are the star. It's not the car. It's not the carriage. It's not me.

He's the star. That's what people come for. You can't create that with an electric car. You'll never create it.

Kids can't pet fenders. They pet horses.


BANFIELD: OK, that's not the last word on that. Mark my word on that.

But here one other big issue that we want to get to, and that is the official swearing in by Bloomberg was last night. But there's a bigger event today.

CANDIOTTI: Exactly, the big party taking place at city hall in less than an hour from now.

And he'll be sworn in by former President Bill Clinton. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also be there. He worked for both of them during the course of his career.

BANFIELD: OK, thank you, Susan Candiotti.

Midwin Charles, stick around. I've got a couple of other big questions I'm going to ask you a little bit later.

CANDIOTTI: Happy new year.

BANFIELD: Hey, happy new year.

CHARLES: Happy new year to you.

BANFIELD: Thanks for coming out in the nice cold. (Inaudible) stand here for an hour with no hat.

Coming up after the break, we've got a couple of other things we want to bring to your attention.

That is this. I mentioned it with Midway very briefly and that was, do you just rule by fiat and say, no carriages and away they go? Or is this shaping up to actually be a pretty big legal battle in 2014?

Find out what the other side of this equation entails and where it might go.

Back in a moment, live from New York City.


BANFIELD: Happy new year, everybody. It's officially 2014.

If you're just waking up, guess what? There's a nice gift coming your way. More than likely you're going to get cold weather and probably some snow, certainly if you live in the Northeast, definitely in you live in the Midwest.

I don't know about y'all in California, but you're probably still sleeping.

In any case, our Alexandra Steele is standing by with all the bad news on this beautiful, cold day.



BANFIELD: Happy new year.

STEELE: All right, well, we will provide some snow for you, so let's get to the details and show you when it's coming and how much will be there.

Here's the big picture. What we're going to see with this snow. it's going to come in phases. It's going to come Thursday and it's going to come Friday for the Northeast.

So here's a look, tomorrow morning, the snow well ensconced in upstate New York and western New York, Vermont, so the Green, the White Mountains, Boston, the Cape and the islands.

You'll notice from Washington south, this is not an affair from you. It's New York, points north.

Friday morning, that's when New Jersey and Long Island and New York get into it.

So, the good news, it will come in phases, so it will be a little bit easier to deal with.

It all moves out by Friday afternoon and then the arctic air comes in after that, so the snow that fell will not go anywhere.

Boston, six to 12 inches for you, again, Thursday, Friday. Four to eight in New York. Twelve-plus in western New York along that New York State Thruway.

High temperatures, the coldest air, the arctic air, modifying still that we saw in the upper Midwest, but only in the teens for the Northeast.

If you're going to stay at home and stay comfortable, of course, all the ball games in Florida, the Gator Bowl, we're going to see rain for you, 60 degrees. The Capital One Bowl in Orlando, rain as well.

So, a lot of rain around the country, especially in the southeast, but it's snow coming to you and cold temperatures, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So, Alexandra, is there any truth to this little CNN note this morning that I saw that Winnipeg, Canada, my birth place, is actually colder than certain sports on Mars?

STEELE: I don't know who wrote that. Todd? I'll have to ask my producer.

But some of your cold spots like Canada and certainly places like Minnesota have and will see and going on record as December being one of the coldest on record. For International Falls, the eighth in Duluth for December, so this is not just typically arctic. This is really quite rare.

BANFIELD: It makes for very friendly, hearty people, is all I'm going to say to that.

Alexandra Steele, thank you so much, and we'll check in with you if things change.

It's certainly beautiful, cold, lovely day here in New York City. And we're on the streets of New York City, because it's the day after the big party in Times Square.

And the carriages that are so famous in New York City here on Central Park South have become a big story today, because one of the first things the brand-new mayor who was just sworn in last night has said is, fine, Christina. He doesn't want the carriages.

Christina Hansen happens to speak for the carriages. You're with the carriage industry -- you're the carriage industry spokesperson.


BANFIELD: First things first, I have walked this street so many times and heard people stop and say, this doesn't seem fair to the animals. And I've heard the drivers speak back. And these hearty debates go on, and now it looks like the mayor is taking on the debate.

HANSEN: There's two different sides here. There's the people that know about horses and people who just look at the horses and give their first impression based on something they read on the internet.

Those of us who work with horses, I'm from Kentucky, horse capitol of the world, know a thing about horses, these are healthy, happy horses. This is what relaxed, well cared for horses look like. Anybody can come out here. We are seen by thousands and thousands of people every day. Millions of people every year come through here. These are the most public horses on the planet, and they're one of the most regulated horses on planet.

BANFIELD: So, one of the things that I think a lot of people say is geez, yeah, but you know there's taxis and exhaust and busy streets. Is that really the place for an animal?

HANSEN: Talking about New York City belongs to all of us. It belongs to the carriage people as well, and it belongs to the horses too. The horses built this city. They have been parking right here where we are -

BANFIELD: -- since the 1850s.

HANSEN: Since the 1850s.

BANFIELD: But there was no concrete and yellow cabs.

HANSEN: Actually, asphalt was invented for horses to walk on, and we are the yellow cabs, actually. And when you look at the statistics, we're safer than any other equestrian discipline, we are safer than pretty much any other transit in New York City. And New York City traffic over the past 12 years in the Bloomberg administration has gotten safer and safer. It's safer than it's been since the days of the horse and buggy.

BANFIELD: Let me quickly read what the ASPCA -- they put out a statement about this. Emily Schneider sent this to us. Very kind of her to do so. Let me read it for you in the wind here.

"The ASPCA has been advocating for the welfare of these horses since their founding in 1866. We believe that the use of carriage horses in 21st century New York City is unnatural, unnecessary, and an undeniable strain on the horse's quality of life. And in recent years we've advocated for phasing them out in the city. Should this practice come to an end, the ASPCA will gladly get involved, including tapping into our network of rescue partners and resources to help with any potential transition and help find and facilitate humane retirement options for the horses."

I want to being in Danny Cevallos as well, who's our legal expert, attorney, well-known to me on the set, not usually in the cold weather. This is an issue. It's a legal issue. -- the advocates for the horse industry, for the carriages, they're going to fight De Blasio in court. How?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they're going to oppose -- first of all, they're going to have to show -- this is going to be some legislative type action. I don't think the mayor has the power to simply ban the horse-drawn carriages. And once they do that, they're going to fight it in court however they can, whether by injunction, however else.

But the real question is this, I mean man has domesticated animals for millennia, and it seems like in just the last 20 years we're all looking around saying, why did we start domesticating the animals? Well, we've done it for a long time. Horses have served this purpose for a long time.

And proponents - I'm sorry - opposition of horse-drawn carriages, they point to horse injuries over the last several years. I think you probably know, we're looking at maybe two or three traffic accidents involving horses. Whereas I think a few hundred humans die. And then --

BANFIELD: But can I ask you about the human factor? And that is this. If you're going to fight this in court, if De Blasio wants to fight back, is there something to the notion as the safety of people as opposed to safety of people? Do need to focus on one rather than the other? There are people in the backs of the carriages and there horses that some people are concerned about.

CEVALLOS: Well, when you talk about, like you did earlier, the atmosphere, breathing in the fumes, that's the exact same exposure that we humans are exposed to. So if it's not good enough for them, it raises the question --

BANFIELD: But I don't have to pull a carriage along the street.


HANSEN: But it's very easy for the horses to do. And Bill De Blasio now is the mayor, is actually overseeing more horses in traffic than any of us out here as carriage drivers. He now oversees the NYPD mounted unit. And there're 70 mounted police police horses breathe the exact same air and New York streets. Are they facilitating horse abuse?

BANFIELD: People don't usually think of that.


BANFIELD: It's just kids enjoying the horses. Christina Hansen, nice to see you. Thanks for your input. I don't think this is the last we're going to be talking.

HANSEN: This is only the beginning. He doesn't know what he has gotten himself into. He was told that this would be an easy issue, he promised New York --

BANFIELD: He hasn't met you.

HANSEN: No. We will fight. We have every right to be here.

BANFIELD: All right. Good to meet you. And as always, love having you. Don't go away, Danny. I've got other stuff for you.

And this, if you can believe it, we talk on CNN and other networks all the time about the crime rate in Chicago and the murder rate and how it's skyrocketing. Guess what? Not so much apparently. As we look back on 2013, it was a pretty good year. I'll explain why in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Happy new year, America. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Reporting live from Central Park South in New York City. The morning after the big ball dropped in Times Square. It is a beautiful day in New York. It's cold though, about 26 degrees and getting colder and snowier. A lot of weather coming. We're updating you on that.

We're also updating you on a story we've been following all year long, that is the crime rate in Chicago. Every story seems to say the same thing, it's terrible and getting worse. As it turns out, it actually got better.

Surprisingly enough, when we got the statistics in, 2013 showed 413 homicides in Chicago. 2012 was 499. If you do the math, that's a 17 percent decline in homicides. If you're talking about overall crime, it was down 25 percent from 2012. And that murder rate, by the way, is the lowest since I was born, 1967. Don't do the math. In any case, it's quite a story as to why all of this happened and the police have a lot to say about what their role in it was. Our Ted Rowlands checked it out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy-three, Solace (ph). Villa.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The final role call of the year at Chicago's ninth precinct. Lieutenant Tom Razirek (ph) talks about new year's eve and goes through his precincts' numbers for the year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shootings, down 88 from last year. That's a 46 percent decrease.

ROWLANDS: 2013 was a great year for the entire Chicago police force. Overall, crime was down nearly 25 percent from 2012, and the murder rate was the lowest since 1967.

GARRY MCCARTHY, SUPERINTENDENT CHICAGO POLICE: It's hard not to be pleased. But we're not satisfied.

ROWLANDS: Some of the credit goes to Chicago's police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, who was brought in two years ago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. McCarthy and Emanuel made sweeping changes that now seem to be paying off, including major changes at the police department.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, CHICAGO: Moving cops from behind the desk out onto the street. Officers doing foot patrol. A strategy on gangs so there's no reprisal shootings.

ROWLANDS: Besides policing, the city has invested in more after-school programs and doubled the size of its summer jobs program. It's also putting pressure on parents to keep better tabs on their kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's starting to get late, boys, get close to home.

ROWLANDS: There were several stories in 2013, including the killing of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student shot after taking a final exam. President Obama talked about Hadiya in his State of the Union.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school. Just a mile away from my house.

ROWLANDS: The biggest problem still facing Chicago is illegal guns. And the lack of accountability for those caught with one. An example, the man accused of killing Pendleton, who McCarthy says would have been in prison if Illinois gun policies were stronger.

MCCARTHY: Her alleged killer pled guilty to illegal possession of a firearm in November of 2012 and killed her in January of 2013.

ROWLANDS: Still things are better. And most people we talked to say they have noticed a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has slowed down, though. It has slowed down.

ROWLANDS: Is it getting better?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is. It's getting better.

MCCARTHY: It's kind of all coming together in one monstrous thunderclap, and the goal is to keep making it better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure you guys watch each other's backs. Have a good night. Be safe.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, Chicago.


BANFIELD: Ted Rowlands, thank you for that reporting. It's been very busy today. So happy January 1st, 2014. Guess what? Your gift today, Obamacare. The coverage begins today. But not so fast. Something happened last night that freezes one part of it, at least for a few people. I'll explain in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.