FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2005
MAYOR BLOOMBERG TESTIFIES BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM SUBCOMMITTEE ON FEDERALISM AND THE CENSUS ABOUT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS
Mayor Bloomberg's prepared remarks are below. Please check against delivery:
Chairman Turner, I join Congresswoman Maloney and Congressman Rangel in welcoming you and the members of this subcommittee to New York City, and, especially, to Harlem. Harlem offers excellent proof of what federal Community Development Block Grant funds have achieved, and continue to accomplish, in our city.
Mister Chairman, as a former mayor yourself, you undoubtedly appreciate the importance of Federal support for our cities that permits a high degree of flexibility and discretion at the local level, while also requiring local accountability. That's federalism at its best. It also perfectly describes the operation of the CDBG program in New York City. It's why the program has produced outstanding results in housing and community development in our city.
This morning here in Harlem, you have seen exactly what I am talking about. Twenty years ago, this proud neighborhood was plagued by the widespread abandonment of housing.
My predecessors at City Hall-Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani-used CDBG funds to reverse that trend, here and elsewhere in our city. The result is that today, Harlem, like other New York neighborhoods that were once on the decline, is now experiencing a heartening revival.
That means that now we have a new challenge: preventing the displacement of longtime community residents, and ensuring that Harlem, and other neighborhoods in our city, remain places that people of all income levels can call home. The adaptability and local autonomy built into the CDBG program mean that we can use CDBG funds to do just that.
With me today is the commissioner of the City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Shaun Donovan. New York City annually spends about $260 million in CDBG funds, and HPD administers the largest share-roughly 60%-of that sum.
Here in Harlem, in Bushwick, in the South Bronx and elsewhere in the city, HPD uses community development block grant funds to help tenants in what were once abandoned, City-owned apartment buildings to establish low-income co-ops and, in this fashion, take part in the great American dream of homeownership.
We draw on CDBG funds to plan the reuse of former industrial brownfields in our city for affordable housing development-a key part of our Administration's ambitious plan to develop and preserve affordable housing for more than 200,000 New Yorkers.
Shaun's team also uses a substantial percentage of CDBG funds for what they rather prosaically describe as "code enforcement." Let me tell you what code enforcement means in New York City.
When landlords in Harlem or in other communities are unable or unwilling to make basic emergency repairs in low-income housing, tenants call our 3-1-1 Citizen Service number for help. We then use CDBG funds to ensure that people who have nowhere else to turn get heat, hot water, and can live in homes that are safe. We also use CDBG funds for comprehensive improvement programs for substandard privately-owned residential buildings.
Safe, affordable housing is crucial to the revival of communities like Harlem, but so are many other factors. And the genius of the CDBG program is that it encourages such robust neighborhood development.
Also with me today is Rob Walsh, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Small Business Services. A major mission of Rob's agency is creating healthy environments for the businesses that sustain neighborhood life in our revitalized communities. As detailed in our written testimony, SBS's neighborhood Business Solution Centers, its storefront renovation programs, and other initiatives-all of which benefit from CDBG funding-are helping us realize that goal in Flatbush in Brooklyn, Hunts Point in the Bronx, and in other communities.
CDBG funds also support daycare centers that help New Yorkers with children move off the welfare rolls and onto job payrolls. They fund the renovation of senior centers throughout the city. CDBG funds also underwrite the City's outreach to homeless mentally ill men and women in and around the Staten Island Ferry Terminals.
The CDBG program is, in short, crucial to the people of New York. And when the proposed Federal budget threatened it with extinction earlier this year, I wrote to Congressional leaders expressing my strong support for preserving this program.
So I applaud the action taken by the Senate and House to maintain the CDBG program. But I urge you to increase funding to at least last year's levels.
Mister Chairman, like you and other members of this committee, our Administration also believes strongly that CDBG funds must be spent where they are needed most, and that local governments must be held to stringent standards in their expenditure.
We have promised the people of New York just such efficient, transparent, and accountable City government-and we have delivered, in the administration of these funds as in other areas. Let me stress unequivocally that our Administration has zero-tolerance for waste, fraud, or other misuse of any public dollars.
What's more, CDBG funding has been highly targeted and has produced results. As you know, Federal law requires that a minimum of 70% of CDBG funds benefit low-income people. In New York City, we far exceed that target; in fact, 93% of our CDBG funds benefit low-income people.
Independent research findings and other testimony that will be presented to you later today will also describe the economic ripple effect that CDBG funds have in encouraging non-profit and private lenders to invest their own funds in housing and community development.
By supporting our initiatives in affordable housing, small business development, and other areas, CDBG funds have played a vital role in the revival of our neighborhoods. Because New York is the nation's largest city, the one most frequently visited by travelers from overseas, and a symbol to the world of how our nation has bounced back since 9/11, every American has a stake in helping us continue to write such success stories.
We look forward to working with this committee to ensure that that happens. And now we'll be glad to take your questions.
Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson (212) 788-2958
Carol Abrams (Housing Preservation and Development)
Ben Branham (Small Business Services)
Jerry Russo (Department of Education)
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