FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT NEW YORK CITY GLOBAL PARTNERS SUMMIT
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's Keynote Address at the New York City Global Partners Summit Held at Columbia University
"President Bollinger, thank you for hosting the New York City Global Partner's inaugural summit, and thank you for that kind introduction. (Although if you'd seen the grades I got in university, you might not have been so kind.) I also want to thank my sister, Marjorie Tiven - our Commissioner for the U.N., Consular Corps, and Protocol. She organized this event and created the Global Partners initiative to dramatically expand New York City's partnerships with the rest of the world - because, with immigrants from nearly every country, we are truly the 'World's Second Home.' And to the rest of you, let me just say: Buenos días, Bon giorno, Gooten morgen.
"I'd continue and offer greetings in all your respective languages - but I have enough trouble as it is in English. Even though this is Global Partners' first event, there is already an incredible participation. We're excited to welcome representatives from more than 25 cities around the world - including the mayors of Victoria, Luxembourg City, and Dusseldorf. Gatherings like this are important. New York is a leader on so many fronts, but we don't claim to have all the answers. We all have much to learn from each other as we take on the challenges facing all cities in the 21st century. We may speak different languages, eat different foods, celebrate different holidays - and, of course, all of you all love football, but we do share many of the same goals: To provide good jobs and safe communities, to be centers of innovation and beacons of opportunity, and for our essential services to work well and run smoothly. For New York, the story of success is essentially a story of its people. And the story of its people is essentially a story of immigration. Our city was founded by immigrants a small group of Dutch settlers, nearly four hundred years ago. In 1644, just two decades, later no fewer than 18 languages could be heard on its streets. And in the centuries that followed, New York was transformed by wave after wave of families from abroad: from Ireland, Italy, Germany, and other parts of Europe. Mine came from Lithuania and Belarus.
"And in recent years - when Mayor Dinkins and I have been in office - the tide of new immigrants has flowed mainly from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America - as well as from Russia. While their origins have changed, all of these immigrants were drawn by the same dream - the dream I had when I moved here from Boston - the dream of freedom and opportunity that defines New York. And many of them came and wrote their own American success stories by working hard, playing by the rules, and weaving themselves into the fabric of city life.
"The subway system, the Brooklyn Bridge, our first schools, the melodies of Broadway . even our political institutions, they were all forged by the minds and muscle of immigrants. Today, New York City is home to more than 3 million immigrants, who make up 36% of our city's population and represent 43% of our workforce. Simply put, immigrants are the lifeblood of this city. Their contributions are beyond measure. And for that reason they have always - and will always be - welcome here. Historically, the City's commitment to our immigrant residents has been more than just jobs and opportunity. It has also meant help in finding those opportunities and building a better life. Perhaps more than any other city in the world, New York has a proven track record of offering its services to everyone - regardless of where they were born. And the reason is simple - and what I want to talk about today: What's good for New York's immigrants is good for New York. In fact, I believe that all cities can prosper by developing strong policies that welcome new immigrants and then integrate them into urban life.
"For this reason, we've worked to tear down the barriers that too often separate immigrants from the services that can help them get good jobs, raise healthy families, and pursue the American Dream. First and foremost, we've been committed to improving access to local government. The greatest example of that is 311 - a single telephone number that New Yorkers can dial to get answers, register complaints, and access services - all completely anonymously. Interested in learning English as a second language…? Call 311. Want to file a complaint about your landlord…? Call 311. Need to apply for food stamps…? Call 311. Operators are standing by 24 hours a day and ready to receive calls in more than 170 languages. You'll visit our call center tomorrow. And not only does 311 help put people in touch with City government, it's an incredible management tool, as well. It permits us to identify which quality of life problems rank among New Yorkers' biggest concerns… where they're most prevalent… and how well city agencies are responding to them. We can also see which problems are most common among our new immigrants - especially those who use 311's foreign language option. Since we launched 311 some 4 years ago, more than 43 million calls have been logged. We do get the odd question now and then… including: 'Where can I find an open parking spot?' And… what is Oprah Winfrey's phone number?' We have no record of what answer was given.
"My administration has strengthened the bridges between government and our immigrant population in other ways, as well. For instance, we've launched a new online service called ACCESS NYC, which helps people in seven different languages to take the first steps in applying for more than 20 benefit programs like child care and tax credits. In the past, seeking these kinds of benefits involved a frustrating, time-consuming, and often demoralizing journey through government bureaucracy. The challenge of making immigrants more integrated in city life has been taken up by every agency of government.
"Our Department of Small Business Services is reaching out to immigrant entrepreneurs and providing instruction and support on topics ranging from developing business plans to accessing incentives to how to secure financing; Our Department of Youth and Community Development supports programs providing legal assistance, literacy programs, and other social services to help immigrant families be more self-sufficient; Our Police Department, whose most recent class of recruits contained officers born in 62 different countries, continues to strengthen bonds with local communities to ensure that when they are enforcing the law and protecting the public, they are always sensitive to potential ethnic and cultural differences; Our Human Rights Commission continues to crack down on any kind of discrimination in employment and public housing based on race, color, creed, and national origin. They made a special effort to reach out to the Muslim community in the days after 9/11; The job centers run by our Human Resources Administration - which you'll visit tomorrow - now issue every client who visits a color coded ticket so that they can easily locate the services they are looking for just by following colored signs that match their ticket. It's simple, efficient, and easy to understand; And our Department of Health continues targeting interventions to the specific needs of immigrant communities. For instance, they recently began supplying free fruit and vegetables to about 60 small markets to improve nutrition in our low-income neighborhoods.
"Some of the most important steps have been taken by our Department of Education. That's not only because our schools are where children - the future of our city - are learning the skills they need to compete in the world of tomorrow… but also because our student population is so diverse: About 40% of students come from a home where English is not the primary language. If you walk through the halls of our public schools, you could potentially hear more than 170 languages being spoken - an Olympic village in every classroom! So, over the past few years, our Department of Education has dramatically expanded its Translation Unit. As a result, our schools now can translate registration forms, report cards, and other critical documents into eight different languages. That's helping more parents than ever get involved in their children's education. And since one quarter of the city's entire population is not proficient in English, we're working to emulate the success we've had in our schools on a citywide level. Because language should never be the reason why someone doesn't get the services he or she needs. But as much as we've focused on the needs of immigrants, we've also made it our priority to address their fears. Remember I said, 'What's good for our city's immigrants is good for New York.' Well the opposite is true, too: What hurts our immigrants hurts our city.
"There are about 500,000 immigrants in our city who are undocumented - that's more people than the entire population of Oslo. And even though many of them live and work here without official status… the choices they make affect us all. When the parents of an immigrant child forego a vaccination for fear of being reported to the federal immigration authorities, we are all at greater risk for catching that disease. When an immigrant is afraid to tell the police that she has been the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, we are all at greater risk because her attacker is still on the streets. The only way to protect our city's health and safety is to ensure that all New Yorkers feel secure when interacting with the government.
"The bottom line is this: If you play by the rules that apply to every resident of this city, you will be protected. If you refuse to do so, then you will not. It's fair and simple. It's this kind of common sense that seems to be missing from the current national debate on federal immigration policy. We recognize that in a post-9/11 world, we have to do a better job of securing our borders. But we also have to make sure it's done right so that we don't shut out the people who will help us keep our economy growing and our culture thriving. That means significantly increasing the number of visas we give out to those who want to come to America… and making sure that those who are already in America have an opportunity to stay and keep their families together. I have made this case to Washington repeatedly over the past year - and I will continue to do so. Immigrants are a vital part of every sector of our economy - from restaurants to scientific research to Wall Street. In fact, on Monday, I will join New York Senator Chuck Schumer to set out the steps we need to maintain our leadership in the global financial services industry. Recommendation Number One will be re-opening our nation to highly-skilled workers - otherwise, we're going to lose ground to other financial capitals around the world.
"In my career in business, I had the opportunity to travel the world. During those trips, I always admired the other cultures I discovered and the warmth I encountered, but I don't think I fully appreciated our global diversity until I became mayor. Now, I get to experience that diversity and energy every single day, without leaving the city's five boroughs. New York's immigrants hold a tremendous pride in this city - maybe even more so than lifelong residents - because they have chosen to settle here and truly appreciate what they've found. I have no doubt that any world city which opens its arms, minds, and hearts to those that come searching for freedom and opportunity can absorb their same spirit and prosper. In fact, to compete and succeed in the 21st century, I believe we have no other choice. Thank you for coming here today. Enjoy the rest of your summit, and enjoy your time in our great city."
Stu Loeser/Jason Post (212) 788-2958