Borough President Fields, Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, Ron Silver, park designer George Velonakis, Commissioner Jennifer Raab, Alfred Walker, baritone of the Metropolitan Opera, students form PS 1, the New York City Police Department Band, the Department of Corrections Pipe Band, all of the assembled Commissioners, and all of the people of New York City, this is a wonderful day and it's great to be to join all of you for the reopening of City Hall Park.
On New Year's Day of 1998, the day of my second inauguration, I stood on the steps of City Hall and I looked out at this park, as I had done many, many times, and what I saw was not the kind of park that New York City should have. That day I led everyone in reciting the Athenian Oath of Fealty, to the city of Athens.
And the final words of that oath are, "To pledge to transmit this city, not only not less, but far greater and more beautiful, than it was transmitted to us." And I promised then that we would restore City Hall Park to the beauty that it enjoyed in the 19th century, so that it could symbolize the regeneration, the rebirth, and the reinvention of the City of New York. And I have to say that the restoration is even greater, even better, even more beautiful than I ever thought it would be.
When I was United States Attorney from 1983 to 1989, almost every day I would look out my window and see City Hall Park. And I would see a park that looked terrible. And it seemed to me that people say something about themselves when they let the most important area of their city look bad and deteriorated. Now it looks very different. Now it is uplifting. It uplifts the spirits of the people of the City. And all of that actually happened in a way that also indicates the reincarnation - the rebirth of the City.
Who would have believed a few years ago that anything in New York City could have been done in ten months? Absolutely no one would have believed it. Well, we have people like Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, and Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Landmarks, Commissioner Jennifer Raab, and all of the people you see here, who devoted a tremendous amount of time to getting this done on time. And look at the difference their work has made-this is now a place that can make New Yorkers proud, rather than making them feel sad.
Throughout the park's reconstruction we have taken care to preserve the park's historic details. Portions of the park's original wrought-iron fence-this fence that you see around us-was found in Bloomingberg, New York. There was a sign on it that said it had come from City Hall Park. It was discovered and then restored so that the fence that you see there is a recreation of the fence that was around this park in the 19th century. The fountain that stands here now in the center of City Hall Park contains the original base from a fountain that stood in the park between 1871 and 1920. A prominent circular stone tablet at the southern tip of the park - as well as stone markers throughout the park - detail the history of the building that used to be here. We've done this so that young people, tourists, and others can recreate the history of the park and get a sense of the historic importance of this place.
This is really, very important, hallowed ground for New York City - and for America, because a lot of the history of our city and of our country happened right here. When our city was a small Dutch trading colony known as New Amsterdam, this land was outside the city limits and it was used by townspeople as a place for cattle to graze. And it was probably considered upstate New York then.
And it was here on July 9th, 1776, that General George Washington stood with the Continental Army and listened to the Declaration of Independence read aloud, just a few hours after it was ratified by New York State's provisional Congress. And don't you think that it's appropriate that George Washington stood in this park, and worshipped right down there, at St. Paul's Chapel, the day he was inaugurated President of the United States. And this park has been rebuilt by another Washington - Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington.
This land has also been witness to the transformations that took place in the city of New York. And also it's been a place of great tragedy. Two months after George Washington and his troops gathered here, New York City was taken over by British forces and it was occupied all during the American Revolution. Hundreds of American Soldiers were held in two prisons that were located right on this ground. And more than 250 of them were executed on the gallows that existed here. So this is a place of tragedy as well-a place that reminds us that the price of freedom and democracy is not cheap, and unfortunately, it seems, has to be paid in every generation.
But with Independence, brighter days returned. City Hall was completed in 1812 and it became very much the center of the City and a proud symbol of City life. Throughout New York City history, City Hall has played a central role in our civic life, and it was here that people gathered over 100 years ago to celebrate the consolidation of New York City into the City of Greater New York. So now, less than a few months before a new millennium, New York City restores the park at a time at which we are universally recognized as the Capital of the World. And on behalf of my fellow 7.5 million New Yorkers, I rededicate City Hall Park in the hope that it will serve as a symbol of the ongoing renaissance of the entire City of New York.
This restoration is dedicated to the future, in the spirit of appreciation for the struggles, sacrifices and accomplishments of those New Yorkers who have come before us. It is a final gift from the 20th century to the New Yorkers of the 21st century.
For that I thank all of you who have made this possible. I thank all of you who have gotten it ready in time for the new millennium. And let me tell you the reason why I put so much pressure to get it done in ten months: because in a few weeks, we're going to have a World Series Celebration, right here.