FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2012
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT THE GREATER ALLEN A.M.E. CATHEDRAL OF NEW YORK ABOUT THE ADMINISTRATION'S WORK TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE AND CONTINUE RECORD PUBLIC SAFETY GAINS
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as prepared for delivery this morning in Queens:
“Good Morning, Reverend, and thank you for having us. Good morning, everyone.
“Always nice to see Senate Minority Leader, Malcolm Smith who’s one of the strongest champions of this city in Albany. Malcolm Smith is a member of this congregation, I just want to ask – does he come every Sunday? Malcolm, you would not survive a vote over there.
“Anyways, it’s always a pleasure to come here, and I can tell you that for the last 11 years I have been welcomed by Reverend Flake, and his wife, and this congregation, in a way that I look – a big smile on my face every time I come. But what I always think about is – I’ve got to go back and tell my rabbi that we don’t have enough singing or enthusiasm in our services.
“Anyways, I wanted to talk a little about the city and safety. It is something that, as you know, was last week – the week of July 4th, when it was very hot – we had a wave of violence across the city. It is just unconscionable and something that we should not allow to continue to go on.
“For those of us who grew up in the 1940s and 50s, violence in the streets usually meant fights, and fights usually meant black eyes and broken bones. But today, violence in the streets is far more dangerous and deadly, and it also involves innocent bystanders, including young children. And that never happened before.
“Just last Sunday in Bed-Stuy, a three-year-old boy – Isaiah Gonzalez – was cooling off in a playground sprinkler when shots were fired. Isaiah was hit in the leg – and this morning, thank God, I’m happy to report that he is home with his family, alive and well.
“I visited Isaiah in the hospital. His parents were strong – but scared and shocked, as every one of us, who’s a parent would be. And as the father of two daughters, I can’t imagine what they were feeling. I can report that Isaiah did not seem to have any interest in the Mayor or anything else, other than the toys he was playing with. But that says he’s a really healthy, well-adjusted three-year-old. And I don’t remember when I was a three-year-old – but I assume I did the same thing.
“Anyway, we all know there is nothing more precious to any of us than the lives of our children. And we will do everything humanly possible to protect our children. But no parent can protect a child against a hail of bullets being fired in a playground on a Sunday afternoon. That is not a parent’s job. That is our job. It is our job as city, as a country, and as a society.
“Here in New York, we do that job far better than most other places. We are the safest big city in the country. And we are on track to record the lowest number of murders in our city’s history.
“But that doesn’t bring any comfort to Isaiah Gonzalez and his parents.
“It also doesn’t bring any comfort to the parents of Akeal Christopher, who was shot in the head last month and died on his 15th birthday.
“And that brings no comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one to gun violence. Because the fact is: as safe as our city is today, it is not safe enough. One shooting is one too many.
“Now, 20 years ago, six people a day were murdered in our city. Think about that – six people, every single day. Today, it is only one person a day. That still is one person, one life, one family – something that never should have happened.
“And that means we’re saving five lives every day – and you have my word: we are not going to give up on the sixth. It’s too easy to sit back and say, ‘Well, we’ve done a lot and that’s just the way it is.’ That may be the way it is – but that’s not the way it should be, not is it the way it has to be.
“And that’s something I believe with all my heart. It is why I formed a national coalition of mayors to press Washington for more change. We’ve gotten over 600 mayors from around the country to sign on.
“It’s why we conducted undercover investigations of out-of-state gun dealers – and we sued the dealers, in other states that we find breaking the law.
“It’s why we passed, with Malcolm’s help – thank you – a tougher state gun law against carrying loaded illegal guns.
“It is why we join with churches and other organizations to hold gun buy-backs.
“And it’s why we’ve worked so hard to keep young people in school and off the street – and help those who have been in trouble get connected to jobs and job training.
“Last year, we launched the nation’s first comprehensive effort to help black and Latino youth overcome the odds and succeed. George Soros, a philanthropist here in New York City, gave $30 million. And Bloomberg Philanthropies, I’m happy to say, matched that with another $30 million, and the City – the taxpayers, you – added $67 million, for something that we’re called the Young Men’s Initiative. It is designed to break the cycle of violence and poverty that traps so many young men.
“The best way to keep guns out of the hands of young people is to keep their hands busy with pen and paper, and keep them in school.
“And with high school graduation rates up 40 percent since 2005, I’m proud to say that we are making real progress. And, if you want to know who in this audience today is doing the most to change society and making it better – it is not Reverend Flake, and it is not Malcolm Smith, and it’s not Michael Bloomberg – it’s Dennis Walcott, because the schools are everything.
“Now, all of that work is critically important to safe streets – and so is smart policing. By targeting police resources to the communities where they are needed most, including here in Southeast Queens, we’ve been able to prevent crimes from occurring – and we haven’t done it by locking more people up.
“In fact, during the last decade – in a little known fact that’s something that I think is one of the keys to our success in bringing down crime by 30 percent – is we’ve also reduced the number of people ending up behind bars by 30 percent.
“In the rest of this country, the solution is – lock them up and throw away the key. And the number of people incarcerate around this country has been skyrocketing.
“But not only has New York City had a steeper decline in crime than the rest of the nation, we did it by decreasing incarceration, unlike in the rest of the country. There has to be a connection.
“If you send a young man off to jail, what does that young man learn? We call it our Corrections Department, does anybody think we really correct? No. all we do with the young man is teach him how to do worse things when they get out. We’ve just got to stop that. And I think one of the real keys to our bringing crime down is – fewer young men going to jail, means fewer young men learning how to do worse things when they get out. And nobody said, think – what we think people that commit a crime should get off scot-free.
“But there are other ways to punish, and to educate, and to help young men get their lives back on track.
“We can’t just take this ‘lock ‘em up and throw away a key’ as a solution. It doesn’t help – I would argue, it hurts on balance. No argument about it. Some people should be incarcerated – when they’re a danger to society. You just can’t have them on the streets. But not everybody that falls off the straight and narrow is a danger to society. And we’ve got to learn how to tell the difference and how to help those who can be helped.
“Now, it’s fair to say that the City has taken a more comprehensive approach to cutting crime and taking off- guns off the street than any other city. But the fact remains, as I said before, there still are 3-year-olds getting shot. There still five 15-year olds getting gunned down. There still are AK-47s on the street. Just a few miles down the road from this church, an AK-47 was used to kill three people last week – in a hail of 63 bullets.
“And so if we want to save more lives – we have to do more.
“And that’s why – in addition to everything else we are doing – police officers stop and question those who are suspected of criminal activity – and frisk those who are suspected of carrying a weapon. Those stops have recovered thousands of guns over the past decade, and tens of thousands of knives. And like the knife used to attack MTA Police Officer John Barnett on the July, on July 4th, we’ve just got to get those weapons out of the hands of kids.
“Now, I don’t want any of us to live in a city where weapons are allowed to remain on the street – and where police do not stop people who are suspected of carrying an illegal weapon or being involved in a crime.
“At the same time, stops must be made for legitimate reasons and no person should ever, ever be racially profiled.
“Racial profiling is wrong and Police Commissioner Kelly and I will not tolerate it. And that’s Commissioner Kelly has re-issued an order banning it – and it is being reinforced in the NYPD’s training.
“But stops must be made based on suspicion of criminal activity, and criminal activity only – and they should be conducted with as much courtesy as possible.
“Commissioner Kelly recognizes the need for better training and stricter accountability to make sure the stops are done properly, and that people are treated respectfully. To borrow a phrase from former President Clinton, when it comes to stop, question, and frisk – if we can do it better – we have to mend it, but we don’t have to end it.
“And as Reverend Flake and Senator Smith have both said, when conducted appropriately, stops are an important part of taking guns off the streets and keeping our communities safe.
“And when we talk about our communities, it’s not just something, some concept – our communities is you, and me, and our children, and our grandchildren – we just have to make sure that everybody has the first of the civil rights and that is – to be safe in their homes, and safe on the streets of their communities.
“Now, as you may know – the City is being sued by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which wants to end stop, question, and frisk.
“The NYCLU is also suing us to stop police officers from doing what are called “vertical patrols” in private buildings and in NYCHA housing – even though the buildings have requested them, and many residents support them. Vertical patrols are essential to safety – because most people don’t live in doorman buildings. And as we all know, unfortunately, there’s always going to be some bad people.
“Two weeks ago, a New York City police officer was doing a vertical patrol in a NYCHA building and he confronted a man with a gun. Officer Brian Groves was shot – shot right in the chest, and he survived, however, because of his bullet proof vest. He and his wife, Nicole, have two young children – one of whom is just a few weeks old. But, thank God they will grow up to know their father.
“But if the NYCLU is allowed to determine policing strategies in our city, many more children will grow up fatherless and many more children will not grow up at all.
“Let’s be clear, the NYCLU’s priority is not protecting our safety. It is protecting their ideology. And in that regard, they are no better than the NRA. One group views the Second Amendment in absolutist terms; the other group views the Fourth Amendment in absolutist terms. Both groups, I think, are dangerously wrong on the Constitution.
“The right to bear arms and the right to privacy do not trump the right of citizens to walk down their own street, or walk down their own hallway, without getting blown away. You’d think that would be common sense! But it is not. And tragically, when common sense disappears from government, people’s lives are put at risk.
“Now, the mayor’s job is not to advance an ideology, it is to protect a city. That’s what you elected me for. And where we can save lives – we have a responsibility to act, not just sit back. That’s true in public safety – and it’s also true in public health.
“Ten years ago, smokers didn’t like it when we banned smoking in bars and restaurants. Does anybody remember that? But since then – hundreds of thousands of smokers have quit and many others have cut back.
“And whether it’s illegal guns or smoking or obesity-related diseases, like diabetes, we have to be honest with ourselves in about how deadly these problems are, and which communities suffer most from them, and we have to be willing to take action. And that’s why I proposed limiting the portion of size of sugary drinks.
“Now, whatever you may think of the proposal, let me tell you what the reality is – we have an obesity problem in this country, and it’s not going to get better unless we take some major steps to address it.
“Sugary drinks are a leading cause of obesity and diabetes. And black New Yorkers are three times more likely to die from diabetes than whites. If our anti-obesity efforts are effective, there is no doubt we will save lives – and many lives will be in communities exactly like this one.
“Over the past decade, the last ten years, we’ve increased life expectancy for New Yorkers by over- almost three years. And it’s not a measure of smart, effective – if that’s not a measure of smart and effective government, I don’t know what is.
“But at the same time, that life expectancy in low-income neighborhoods is today four years younger, four years less than the rest of the city. And that’s because of illegal guns, it’s because of diabetes, and other public health problems.
“We can’t accept that. And I promise you – I will not accept it. I’ve always believed that one of government’s fundamental responsibilities is helping people live longer, healthier lives – and we’re determined to do that in all communities in this city.
“Before I close, I just want to thank Reverend Flake and Senator Smith for being such strong leaders for this community – and for our entire city. The three of us believe that all New Yorkers deserve to be treated with respect. And we also believe that all New Yorkers deserve to be safe.
“There is no doubt we’ve come a long way in both areas over the past ten years – but we can always do more, and we will. I firmly believe we can drive crime down further. And I really believe that we can do that while bringing our city even closer together.
“And as long as I am mayor, I promise you – we will not choose between safety and civility. We will demand both and we will continue to do even more to deliver both, to every community in this city.
“Every child is equal, every life is precious – and I will do all I can while I’m mayor to see that we protect each one from harm.
“Thank you, and God bless.”
Stu Loeser / Marc La Vorgna (212) 788-2958
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