Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday morning that he is "absolutely confident" New York City is well-prepared to protect Pope Francis, who is scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport at 5 p.m. for a whirlwind two-day visit.
Speaking in a pre-dawn appearance on WABC, the mayor said the NYPD is "absolutely up to the job" of not only protecting the Pope, but scores of statesmen gathered this week in Manhattan for the 70th U.N. General Assembly.
De Blasio also said he expects the pontiff's message of acceptance and inclusion to "resonate very strongly here in New York City."
"He has the ability to make humanity think differently about our commonality," de Blasio said of Pope Francis, saying the pontiff is echoing a message pushed by his administration -- of working toward "a more just and equal society."
The mayor said that the venues chosen for papal appearances -- an evening prayer Thursday night at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Friday at Central Park and Madison Square Garden -- were aimed at making sure "every day New Yorkers" had the chance to see Pope Francis.
He said security details understand this pope is "spontaneous" in many acts and actions and said law enforcement is fully prepared should the pontiff decide to stop his motorcade or proceedings to meet and greet the public.
"We know at some point he will do that," de Blasio said, noting the pope already has done as much during the earlier part of his visit to Cuba and to Washington, D.C.
"It's who he is," de Blasio said of that spontaneity, calling it "genuine."
The mayor said he is "thrilled" to know tens of thousands of New Yorkers will get the chance to see the pope here, on their home turf, saying he believes officials have assembled "an extraordinary team" that will ensure it is the best and safest experience possible.
"This is going to be an incredibly energizing moment for the City of New York," the mayor said.