FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG DELIVERS 2008 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's State of the City Address as prepared at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park
"Thank you, Helen, and good afternoon. It's great to be in Queens. Home of Louis Armstrong, Simon & Garfunkel, and the great Count Basie, who wrote my entrance music today - 'One O'Clock Jump.' I'm especially glad to be here at the brand-new public pool and ice rink in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I was hoping to ride in on a Zamboni but I couldn't get it through the Midtown Tunnel.
"Speaker Quinn and members of the City Council, Comptroller Thompson, Public Advocate Gotbaum, Borough Presidents, Mayors Dinkins and Koch. I want to welcome you and all our distinguished guests here today. And I'd like to start by introducing you to some guests of my own. Five special families: the Ramóns, who came to New York from Colombia 20 years ago; the Chens, originally from Ningbo, China; the Snreenivasans, originally from Madras, India; the Bias family, who moved here in 1953 from South Carolina; and finally, the Farruggios, who came from Sicily, and are here today with the newest member of their family - Sienna - born just two weeks ago.
"Five different families. Five different backgrounds, origins, even native languages. Yet they all live, just blocks apart, right here in Flushing. And they share something else: Immigrant - or native-born all of them have hitched their dreams to this great city. I wanted to invite these families today, and a number of others in the front rows, because the diversity they represent is what makes our town special. This is New York City.
"These families - like all of us - do not know what the new year will bring, especially as the economy appears headed for difficult times. Family budgets are tightening, and so are budgets for businesses and governments. But these families have put their faith in our city. They believe in the promise it has always offered. And our challenge - those of us in this room who work for them - is to make it just a little bit easier to redeem that promise, a little bit easier to get through these uncertain times.
"Their presence is a two-way street. New York gives them unlimited opportunities and these families help make New York the nation's economic engine, its financial hub, its fashion center, its media mecca, and its cultural capital. And that's one of the messages I've been speaking out on, to those who are wailing against immigration, to those politicians who, all of a sudden, have embraced xenophobia, I say: open your eyes.
"Take a look behind me. This is what makes America great. This is New York City. This is Freedom. This is Compassion, and Democracy, and Opportunity.
"We are in a competitive struggle. And the stakes couldn't be higher. Over the past year, I've seen cities from London to Paris to Shanghai, pushing the frontiers of progress. They are doing everything they can to attract the best and the brightest in every field: medicine; engineering; construction and more. These cities are not putting up barriers; they're not looking inward or blaming someone else. They're not afraid of the new or the different, and we shouldn't be either. If we are, we won't have a future.
"Keeping New York City and America at the front of the pack begins with an openness to new energy, meaning immigration, and to new ideas, meaning innovation. It means thinking about problems in new ways, and using the most powerful new technology from every place to solve them. It means recognizing what we do well and how - with education - we can improve and be the beneficiary of change, not its victim.
"That's how I built my business and that's the approach I've brought to a City government that was insular, and provincial, and married to the conventional. To stay competitive, this year New York will continue implementing the most ambitious agenda of any city in the country, and doing something that too often doesn't happen in government: following-through on promises.
"We are committed to making our City government quicker, leaner, stronger, better, and to giving all New Yorkers a city that matches their ambition and honors their dreams. What I'm going to describe today is not just about programs and applications. It's about helping people like the families behind me who live the State of the City every day, and who feel the State of the City when they're walking down the street, when they're paying their bills and when they're sending their children off to school.
"So let's talk about the State of our City for these families - and yours. Let's begin with government's most fundamental responsibility: public safety.
"In 2007, we made the safest big city in the nation safer than it has been in generations. The fewest traffic deaths in nearly a century. Historic lows in jail violence. Historic lows in fire fatalities. And the fewest homicides recorded in modern history. This is New York City today.
"Sadly, just three days into our new year, we got a heartbreaking reminder of the risks our first responders take every day: We lost FDNY Lieutenant John Martinson while he was battling a fire in a 25-story building. And last August, we lost firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino to a fire at the old Deutsche Bank Building. These heroes left us more than an inspiring example of sacrifice. They left us with a job to do: Providing our police officers and firefighters with the best new tools and training - so that when they walk into an emergency situation, they'll have the best possible chance of walking safely back out.
"This year, Commissioner Scoppetta and the FDNY will pioneer a state-of-the-art high-rise fire simulator that will play an important role at our new 23-week training academy. That's nearly double the length of the old training program. And starting this year, the fire academy will begin welcoming the most diverse classes in its history.
"We'll also take a major leap forward in modernizing and improving emergency communications. By placing GPS-systems in every fire truck and ambulance, we can now track and deploy them more effectively - which has helped reduce ambulance response times by 21 seconds over the past 18 months. That makes a big difference in saving lives. But we can do better.
"This year, we'll be launching the New York City wireless network - which allows first responders to get more information, more quickly. Maps, mugshots, rap sheets. It will move us from slow dial-up to high-speed broadband with 100 times the capacity of the old analog system. At the same time, we'll expand its functions to serve all of City government - even the more mundane things that influence our quality of life.
"For instance, it will allow us to read water meters remotely or improve control of traffic signals. To further reduce police and fire response times and improve emergency communications, we'll move past the old agency-centric way of handling 911 calls.
"Right now, if you call 911 to report a fire, you first speak to a police operator then you're transferred to a fire operator - in a completely different location - and you have to tell your story all over again wasting precious seconds. This year, to begin streamlining the call-taking system, operators and dispatchers will move into the first of two new centralized facilities, working side by side, saving time, and possibly even lives.
We'll also have 'Digital 911' up and running by this summer, allowing New Yorkers to send digital photos to the police from their cell phones. These new communication tools will enable the NYPD to continue driving crime down to historic lows. Because, whether it's one murder or 496 we are not satisfied we are not finished and we are not letting up in the fight against crime - not for one second.
"In the year ahead, we'll use the latest technology to continue turning up the heat on criminals - and, to more quickly exonerate the innocent. The single most powerful way to do both is through DNA analysis. Two years ago, we convinced the State Legislature to expand DNA testing to cover all convicted felons, and some misdemeanors. This year, we will urge Albany to follow the lead of the federal government - and a growing number of European countries - by taking DNA fingerprints from all those who are arrested. This would help keep the innocent out of jail and the guilty off our streets.
"In the months ahead, we will also challenge the private sector to speed up DNA fingerprinting so that when DNA is left behind, officers can identify suspects more quickly and avoid wrongful arrests. And to do this, we will establish a six-figure prize for anyone who can invent a device tailored to the NYPD that analyzes DNA right at the crime scene. It's just one more way we are trying to bring private sector innovation into the public sector.
"This year, we'll also use technology to fight the #1 public safety threat in our city - and in all cities: illegal guns. In less than two years, our bi-partisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown from 15 members to more than 250. Together, we've put the issue of illegal guns back on the national agenda - and against all odds, we have made important progress: Beating back federal legislation that would have made it easier to traffic in illegal guns. Convincing the federal ATF to release some of the critical trace data our officers need to track the flow of guns across state lines. And most recently, in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, we helped pass a major upgrade to the federal background check system.
"The Virginia Tech murders showed what happens when state governments fail to share mental health records with the ATF. But Virginia was not alone. Right now, thousands of New York's mental health records are not in the federal background check system. So, this year, we will push for new State legislation requiring all State agencies to supply these records to federal authorities - and I say: Let's get it done before the April 16th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre and before another senseless tragedy takes place.
"Two years ago, under Commissioner Kelly's leadership, the NYPD created a special Gun Suppression Squad to improve our anti-trafficking intelligence. Now, to take this work to the next level, we will begin creating a comprehensive database of firearms evidence - something no other city in the country has. It will become the latest addition to our revolutionary Real Time Crime Center.
"We will also seek to follow Governor Schwarzenegger's lead in passing legislation that requires manufacturers to use microstamping technology, which helps police better connect crime scenes to guns. Criminals are hoping we don't pass it - so what are we waiting for?
"We'll also deploy the latest technology against those who seek to attack our city a possibility that, unfortunately, is just as strong as it was before 9/11. In the year ahead, Commissioner Bruno and the Office of Emergency Management will help every City agency draw up plans that guarantee continuity of operations during a wide-scale emergency. At the same time, the NYPD will expand its Lower Manhattan Security Initiative by deploying 30 vehicles Downtown with automated license plate reading devices. The NYPD deserves the world's best counter-terrorism tools and we're going to make sure they have them.
"We've brought new technology to every level of city government to improve customer service and employee performance. I've always believed that achieving these goals begins with providing the information people need to hold our feet to the fire. That's the idea behind the streamlined Mayor's Management Report, and behind the progress reports we've released on both our campaign promises and PlaNYC. A government that is more open, more responsive, and more accountable: This is New York City.
"In the months ahead, we will take that philosophy to new heights with a major new addition to our most popular customer service innovation 311. Since 2003, we've logged more than 60 million calls. Now, we haven't been able to satisfy everyone, of course. Someone recently called trying to buy tickets for a Hannah Montana concert. But today, I'm pleased to announce a new and improved 311. The citizens' hotline will soon go on-line. From now on New Yorkers will be able to track the progress of their service requests on the web.
"By this summer, the public will also be able to go online to monitor the progress of SCOUT, our roving team of quality-of-life inspectors who hit the streets last fall. SCOUT has already covered every city street three times over - and we even have one of their scooters here today.
"Over the coming months, we'll go even further. Working with Public Advocate Gotbaum, we will conduct a massive public opinion survey and reach out to 100,000 New Yorkers to get their feedback on how well City government is serving them. We'll also roll out the mother of all accountability tools, which we call Citywide Performance Reporting. It's going to put a wealth of data at our fingertips - more than any other American city has ever made available. Fire response times, noise complaints, trees planted by the Parks Department- you name it.
"More than 500 different measurements from 45 City agencies - all available with a few clicks of the mouse. I like to think of it as a Bloomberg terminal for City government - except that it's free to the public. And no future mayor will ever be able to walk away from it because the public won't let them, and rightly so. Good government is about transparency and accountability. We're doing everything we can to make them both permanent.
"Modernizing City government also requires a comprehensive look at its structure and operations, something that hasn't happened since Mayor Koch appointed a Charter Revision Commission 20 years ago. Since then, a lot has changed, and we've come to see redundancies, antiquated regulations, and areas for cost-savings. It's time to apply those lessons in order to make government more open, accountable, and efficient - not just this year, but permanently. Today, I am pleased to announce that we will appoint a new Charter Revision Commission that will conduct a top-to-bottom review of City government over the next 18 months. We'll consider any proposal that will improve the life of New York and New Yorkers.
"Unfortunately, a Charter Revision Commission can't affect an area that desperately needs modernization: The Board of Elections, perhaps the only agency that still has the party bosses directly calling the shots. But this year, we will work with Citizens Union to build a nonpartisan coalition that unites the left and the right around a very basic idea: Hiring should be based on merit, not party ties. 2008 is the 130th anniversary of the death of Boss Tweed. Let's also make it the year we finally put to rest his style of politics.
"All of our work to make government more accountable stems from a simple principle: Serving our citizens is our most basic responsibility. That goes for every citizen at every income level. In 2008, we will use technology to continue breaking down barriers to City services. For too long, individual agencies have looked at their clients in isolation - even though many New Yorkers interact with City government on a whole spectrum of issues.
"For instance, today, the Human Resources Administration has no way of knowing that a woman who is seeking help finding work might also have a history of homelessness and a child in foster care. This year, in a first for any municipal government, we will link the computer systems at more than a dozen City agencies. They'll be able to share client information without compromising confidentiality.
"Under this new system - called Health and Human Services Connect - New Yorkers will have to give us their information only once, and their case file will be updated online as needed. For the caseworkers this will mean less time pushing paper more time with their clients and, most importantly, a more comprehensive picture of the people we are trying to help.
"We need to give New Yorkers the best service we can because New Yorkers give their best to the city they love. They give their time, their talent, and sometimes, they give more than anyone can imagine. Luís and Yolanda Ramón moved to 45th Avenue, not too far from here, where they raised their three sons, and sent them to P.S. 24. Their eldest boy, who was born in Colombia and emigrated here, joined the United States Marines in 2003, to defend his new country.
"As many of you might remember, three years later, Corporal Julian Ramón gave his life in Anbar Province. Luís and Yolanda, on behalf of all eight and a quarter million of your neighbors, we honor your son, and all of the brave soldiers who've served our country, and city so valiantly. The bravery of Julian, the strength of Luís and Yolanda - This is New York City. And that's why we're going to do more than ever to protect New Yorkers here at home when they're most vulnerable.
"To step up our fight against domestic violence, we will open the City's second Family Justice Center in Kew Gardens giving victims another place where they can find all the services they need under one roof. And to press the battle against homelessness, we will establish nearly 500 beds for the toughest cases: Those who avoid the shelter system because they don't want to be bound by a curfew or forced into a substance abuse program. We can't be afraid to flip the conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to intractable problems like homelessness or poverty. And that's exactly what our Center for Economic Opportunity is doing.
"Over the past year, it's put more than 30 innovative strategies into motion, representing the best new ideas in the field, ideas that have the potential to unlock new solutions to poverty. This work has also helped us build on the progress we've made in reducing the number of welfare recipients to the lowest it has been in nearly half a century.
"Another 12 pioneering ideas will hit the ground this year - including a new partnership with our three public library systems to promote literacy among high school dropouts. It will be part of an emerging focus on New Yorkers who are a key part of the poverty puzzle: young fathers. Through a new campaign called 'NYC Dads,' for example, we will help more young fathers connect with their children, and with jobs. Congress should do its part too, by ending the marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit and lowering the qualifying age from 25 to 21. At the same time, Congress should withhold the money from any father who isn't up to date on child support payments. Bigger benefits, basic responsibilities. To me, that's the right way to fight poverty.
"At the same time, let's face up to the hard fact: too many of today's young fathers have run afoul of the law. They face an uphill battle in getting their lives back on track - but if they don't, their children will suffer most.
"That's why this year, we will build more classrooms at Rikers Island and make going to school there more attractive. And to keep inmates on the right path once they leave, we will link them to the benefits they need immediately upon release. They've paid their debt - but with no prospects, sadly, too many of them will return to jail. Let's help them build their future - which will help keep all of us safe.
"A central part of reducing poverty is improving public health - and over the past six years we've helped New Yorkers of all incomes be proactive about their health. The results speak for themselves: 265,000 more New Yorkers now have a regular doctor; a record number are being screened for colon cancer; teen smoking has plunged an incredible 52 percent; and due to these accomplishments - and others - the average New Yorker is living longer than the average American. Think about that. On the other hand, why shouldn't we? This is New York City!
"Now, we're stepping up our fight against New York's number one killer: heart disease. That's why, last year, we didn't just ban trans fats. Working with Speaker Quinn, we've increased the availability of healthy foods in neighborhoods where they are hardest to find and also introduced legislation to raise the number of street vendors who sell fruit and vegetables.
"This year, we will raise the quality of food served in every City agency from our hospitals to our schools to our senior centers. That's nearly 1.5 million meals every single day of the year. We'll also continue opening parks and playgrounds in every neighborhood, so that every New Yorker has no more than a 10-minute walk to enjoy them.
"Over the next 25 years, the number of New Yorkers over 65 is going to nearly double- growing to 20% of our city. That's an incredible statistic. Seniors bring both stability and vitality to our neighborhoods. Just take a look at John Bias. He's joined councils, clubs, and community boards. He retired and now he's busier than ever.
"Today I'm announcing a major effort called 'The All Ages Project.' In collaboration with the City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine, this project will completely re-envision what it means to grow old in New York, for seniors like John and me!
"For instance: How can we ensure that more seniors are cared for in their own homes, rather than in institutions? And how do we make our city easier to get around in? Next month, we will begin to address that second challenge with traffic engineering improvements at 25 high-accident areas which are especially problematic for seniors, including some here in Flushing.
"This will make the streets safer for all of us including our children. Everything we're doing, in fact, will create a better future for our children - because soon this will be their city. They'll be the ones sitting in your seats, voting, paying your Social Security benefits or even be up here giving the State of the City address.
"That's why, from the beginning, we've pursued major education reforms that put 'children first.' That commitment has been the engine driving everything we've achieved in the past six years: Raising graduation rates by 20%; increasing reading and math scores by double digits; slashing the bureaucracy; funding schools more generously - and more equitably; rewarding principals and teachers for excellence; closing the shameful achievement gap between ethnicities; and giving all children a chance to fulfill their God-given potential. This is New York City.
"The families of New York expect a lot from their schools - and they have every right to. They're entrusting us with their children. Five children, in the case of the Snreenivasan family. They're the people we have to answer to. That's why one of our first steps was putting parent coordinators in every school. It's why we reached out to 850,000 families in the biggest school survey ever. "It's why we've created school progress reports - in 10 languages.
"And this year, we'll use the power of technology to give families another window into their children's schools. Recently, we unveiled a performance management database that allows principals and teachers to track student progress. This fall, we'll open up this web-based system to parents. No longer will kids be able to hide test scores from parents.
"We will put technology to work in other ways, too. For instance, this year, we'll begin testing GPS systems on our school buses to help us measure on-time performance and keep track of our fleet in the event of a citywide emergency. Technology will also help us in our mission to ensure a first-rate teacher in every classroom. This year, we'll provide a new web-based 'tenure tool kit,' to empower principals to make tenure decisions the right way: Rigorously, fairly, and based on student learning and progress.
"This will build on our work with the UFT to make teacher tenure what it is supposed to be- a reward for success, not an automatic right for punching the time clock. Make no mistake, we believe in our teachers. That's why we've raised salaries 43% and invested more than $2 billion in training and supporting them. But we're also going to be tough enough to give principals the authority to evaluate all teachers based on how well their students are actually learning. Students and parents deserve nothing less.
"In 2008, we're also going to set higher student standards and make sure that every student entering high school is ready to do high school work. Last year, Speaker Quinn and the Council did a great service by spotlighting the challenges we face in our middle schools. We've begun implementing many of their recommendations and now, we're ready to take the next step.
"Four years ago, I proposed ending the shameful practice of social promotion for 3rd graders in our city. Not everyone liked that idea, you may remember. But our 3rd graders rose to the challenge - and then, when we expanded the policy to 5th and 7th graders, they rose to the challenge, too.
"Now I will ask the City's Panel on Educational Policy to end social promotion next school year in the 8th grade. We're going to give 8th graders the extra support they need to meet our higher standards. If they're going to succeed in high school, and in a competitive world they need to know the basics before they get there. Three years ago, we launched new vocational programs to engage young people who had either already left school, or were on the verge of dropping out. Thousands of them have now gotten their lives on track. This year, we're going to begin dramatically transforming how high school students prepare for technical careers in a number of growing fields. Traditionally, such career and technical education has been seen as an educational dead-end. We're going to change that. College isn't for everyone, but education is.
"Building on work by the State Education Department, we'll do what no other public school system in the nation has done- create rigorous career and technical programs that start in high schools and continue in our community colleges. We'll offer the first of these new options in September 2009. And we'll lay the groundwork this year - a process that will be led by a task force I'm announcing today.
"I'm glad to say it will include Merryl Tisch of the Board of Regents, and will be co-chaired by two great citizens: New York Life CEO and Chairman Sy Sternberg and my good friend, former Mayor David Dinkins. Thank you, Sy and thank you, Mayor Dinkins.
"Finally, let's talk about the most pressing concern to the state of our city: the economy. This is likely to be a difficult year - as our great comptroller, Bill Thompson, and others have forecast. But, you should know, we haven't waited for the hard times to hit before taking action.
"During the sunny days, we prepaid debt, saved for retiree's healthcare, and budgeted responsibly, and when clouds started forming last year, working with the Comptroller, we began to cut spending and freeze hiring. Now, we will not walk away from making the hard decisions about what we can and can not afford.
"Next week, I will present our preliminary budget for Fiscal 2009. It will contain spending reductions we committed to last fall. It will also rely on support from our partners in State government and our municipal unions, which have always stood with the City during difficult times. But it will also offer something that more and more homeowners need continued tax relief.
"We remain committed to extending the $400 property tax rebate to all homeowners. Also last year, working with the City Council, we offered a seven percent, across-the-board property tax cut for one year. Next week's preliminary budget will propose an extension of that cut. However, adopting it will depend on a variety of factors unknown today - from the health of our economy to the continued help we get from our partners in State government to the outlook for future years after our Administration has come to an end.
"We've been through tough times before and come out stronger because we came together to make this city better for everyone. That is exactly what we will do once again by pushing ahead with a five-borough economic development strategy that has broken all the rules about the ability of City government to affect the economy. By investing in a diverse, growing slate of industries and by making our city more livable and more business friendly, this strategy has helped create 179,000 private sector jobs over the past four years alone.
"In 2007 we set records in so many key economic areas: The highest bond rating in nearly 80 years; roughly $25 billion in new construction; a record 33 percent home ownership rate; and 46 million tourists. This is New York City. And since small businesses are the backbone of our city's economy, supporting them now is more essential than ever.
"From my own experience, I know that the last thing small businesses want to deal with is a lot of red tape. That's why this year, our Business Express web site will make it much simpler for business owners to determine what permits and licenses they need from various agencies. And the Department of Consumer Affairs will also begin offering online applications and renewals for those permits and licenses. The growth of our small business community has been fueled by our population growth - and together, they're adding new urgency to the need for modern infrastructure.
"That's exactly why we developed PlaNYC, our strategy for creating the world's first truly sustainable city. PlaNYC includes 127 proposals - many of them pioneering the latest technology to achieve our goals. This year, we'll work to increase our use of solar panels to continue greening government buildings and we'll join forces with the real estate industry to make new construction and old buildings greener.
"This is the single most important thing we can do to reduce our carbon footprint - but it's not the only thing. With the State's blessing, we'll also use technology to create a system of congestion pricing - something no other American city has done. It will help us achieve four critical, inter-connected goals: reducing traffic congestion; raising money for mass transit; improving our air quality; and fighting climate change.
"Better mass transit is key to our economic growth. That's why we refused to wait for the MTA to build the extension of the Number 7 line, and just last month broke ground on the first new mile of subway track that the city has funded since the 1950s. The 7 extension is a great example of our five-borough economic development strategy in action. That's New York City today.
"By rezoning some 40 blocks of underused land on Manhattan's West Side, we set the stage for the neighborhood's revival. That's New York City today. Now, by investing in infrastructure and public parks, we are unleashing the forces of the private sector. That's New York City, too. And that's been our story in every borough.
"Over the past six years we've rezoned one-sixth of the city - more than the past six administrations combined. And we've invested more than $4.5 billion dollars in new infrastructure and public attractions. Just look at the building we're in today. In fact, this is the largest facility ever built inside a City park. The pool upstairs won't officially open until next month but if anyone wants to take a dip now, I'm sure we can work something out.
"This year, we'll keep charging ahead - rezoning the South Bronx and continuing to invest $3 billion in new infrastructure. We'll rezone 125th Street in Manhattan to make way for more jobs and more affordable housing. We'll do the same at St. George on Staten Island, catalyzing new jobs and economic growth. We'll also rezone Willets Point, a stone's throw from here, the first step in what will be one of the most significant environmental reclamation projects of our time. And, with our partners in City and State government, we'll work to bring the magic back to America's first playground: Coney Island. This is New York City. We can't lose it!
"The list of investments could go on and on. It starts in Lower Manhattan, where we will do everything possible to pick up the pace at the World Trade Center site and, working with the State, finally bring the Deutsche Bank building down this year. At the same time, we will continue to revitalize Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan, and we'll open the first section of the hottest new park in the country: the High Line, which we hope will be anchored by a new Whitney museum.
"We'll break ground on a new home for the Theater for a New Audience in Downtown Brooklyn and begin constructing Brooklyn Bridge Park. Not far from here, the Queens Museum of Art will expand, and construction will begin on a million-square-foot office complex at Queens Plaza. And not far from there, in Long Island City, we will work to turn some 30 acres of prime, waterfront real estate into the largest new development of middle-income housing since Starrett City more than 35 years ago.
"As you know, affordable housing is the foundation of strong communities. That's why we created the largest affordable housing program ever undertaken by any city - 165,000 units by 2013 enough for 500,000 people more than the entire city of Atlanta. We've already financed construction and preservation of 69,000 units - and this year, we'll see the largest number of units financed since the mid-70s. We're also going to help more New Yorkers buy their own homes - families like the Farruggios. Joe, his wife Alexis, and their two kids, wanted to build their dream home and now they're building it on the lot right next to his father's.
"To help even more families buy and keep their homes, we recently joined with the City Council to create the Center for New York City Neighborhoods. This month, the Center will open its doors and begin helping families who've been hit hardest by the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Keeping housing affordable is essential to remaining a city that welcomes the middle class.
"And to help more New Yorkers enter the middle class, we will continue promoting an industry that offers tens of thousands of jobs for those on their way up the economic ladder: tourism. Last year, NYC & Company ramped up its global reach by launching the 'This is New York City' campaign and opening offices in places like Sweden, Russia, China, and Brazil. In 2008, we'll add new locations in India and Australia to keep us moving closer to our goal of attracting 50 million annual visitors by 2015.
"There is no doubt what draws so many tourists to our city: arts and culture. No matter what your pleasure - from MoMA to Mamma Mia from Landmarks to sculpture parks you can find it here. This is New York City - the most diverse arts and entertainment community in the world.
"Later this year, in what will be a major new work of public art, four man-made waterfalls - as tall as the Brooklyn Bridge - will rise out of New York Harbor; a fitting symbol of how our entire waterfront is coming back to life. And also this year in what will be an incredible send-off to America's greatest sports cathedral, Yankee Stadium will not only host Pope Benedict the 16th but also the 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game and, I have no doubt, the most dramatic Game Seven of the most thrilling Subway Series of all time.
"The year ahead is not going to be easy - but as I stand here, I'm more optimistic about our future than ever. There's a great quote in the latest Philip Roth book: 'I came to New York,' the character says, 'and in only hours, New York did what it does to people; awakened the possibilities. Hope breaks out.'
"What a wonderful description of our city. We believe in all of the possibilities. A city that constantly pushes the boundaries of innovation. A city that's open to everybody from around the world. A city that can compete with any place on Earth. A city where 'hope breaks out.'
"Every January, when the mayor gives this speech, it's tradition to sum up the 'State of the City' in one word - one adjective. But today I look to the people behind me and say: The State of the City is as energetic as Julian Chen at the playground and as vibrant as a holiday dinner with the Snreenivasan. It is as inspiring as John Bias, as strong as the pride inside Luís and Yolanda Ramón; and as full of promise as beautiful little Sienna Farruggio.
"Energetic. Vibrant. Inspiring. Strong. Full of promise. This really is New York City. God bless you and God bless New York City."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958