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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Speaks at Earth Day 2014 at Union Square

April 22, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you Pamela. I want to thank Pamela Lippe for her extraordinary leadership as President and Executive Director of Earth Day New York. This is a day we look forward to each year, a day where we take stock of what we've done right, and we rededicate ourselves to what we need to do going forward with ever-greater urgency. So thank you to Pamela. Thank you to John Opperman, the managing director of Earth Day New York, all the staff, all the volunteers who made this day possible. Let's thank the staff and the volunteers!


And all of the partners in Earth Day who make it possible, and thank you especially to the performers and participants in all of today's activities. You know, we all care about a greener environment. Some people are in a position to do particularly important things about it. One of them is our city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. Thank you for your leadership. And we have some elected officials here who are devoted to constantly doing more to protect our environment. They include our Borough President Gale Brewer – thank you. And Councilmember Corey Johnson – I think he's out there – thank you, Corey.

So, to all of the children who are part of this day – I just saw some young people from P.S. 9 as I was coming out of the subway, and I wished them a Happy Earth Day, and they felt, deeply – you could tell – they felt the importance of the day. They knew what it meant, what it meant for their future. So to all the children out there, all the boys and girls listening to me, all the parents, and everyone who cares about our future – I want to welcome you to the greenest day of the year in the greatest city in this country. And I am wearing my green tie to make sure we know it is Earth Day, all around.

Now, here in New York, our goal is to make sure that every child grows up strong – in a healthy, in a clean environment. So we work very hard. Thousands and thousands of city employees work very hard at the Sanitation department, at DEP, at so many agencies – the Parks department – work hard every day to protect our environment, to make sure the water we drink is clean, the air we drink– we breathe is clean, to make sure our environment gets cleaner all the time. It takes hard work. But our city employees do that for us every day, and they deserve our great appreciation and respect.

Now, in fact, we've got some folks from city – some of the city agencies around here. Let's give them a round of applause and thank them for all they do for this city. The very first Earth Day was back in 1970. I was nine years old. But I can tell you, for all of us at that time, you could feel that something momentous was happening. Earth Day – just having an official day, where we focused on protecting our environment – began a series of changes. It was a truly earth-changing moment. So I've been blessed to grow up with the idea that we have to dedicate ourselves to constantly protecting Mother Earth. And we have made some amazing progress, and even in the biggest, densest city in the country, we continue to lead the way. In fact, the air today in New York City is cleaner than it's been in more than 50 years. And we're going to work to make it better still. And for that reason, I'm proud to announce today that we'll be updating and strengthening the city's air pollution control code. This is the way we keep our air clean, and there's more we can do to keep our air clean. And we're devoted to doing it. We're going to work with our friends in the City Council to make the law stronger. It is the best tool we have to ensure that every possible form of pollution of the air is addressed, and addressed stringently. We're going to make sure we do that.

Now, today is a day of celebration. There’s going to be a lot of music, a lot of performances that will enlighten us, entertain us, and raise awareness at the same time. And since there are a lot of parents here today, let me mention something that I care deeply about that’s another way we can uplift and protect our kids. And that’s making sure they get the best quality education as early as possible. So starting this September, we’re going to see a major expansion of free, high quality, full-day pre-K.


And I can tell you, Pamela, I have been in a number of pre-K classrooms lately, and they often are teaching kids about plants, and about air and water, and the environment. So they’ve got to learn early, so they can help protect the future of our environment.


There’s going to be pre-K programs in schools, in community centers, in libraries, in locations all over the five boroughs. It’s going to make a huge difference for kids and parents. And so many people helped and supported our effort to get this done in Albany. To all of you, I say thank you. Thank you for helping us make history. Thank you for helping us reach every child. But now, we have to reach every parent who needs to apply for their children. So, the application – the first application deadline for full-day pre-K is tomorrow, April 23. This is the application form. Any parent out there, any friend of a parent with a four-year-old child, a child born in 2010 – if you haven’t signed up for full-day pre-K, tomorrow is the first deadline. We’ve got people all around helping us out today, getting these applications out. After this, there’s going to be other opportunities to apply for programs in community-based organizations. There’s going to be lots of opportunities for parents, but the first one is tomorrow. So please, please, please make sure everyone you know signs up.

Let me just say that very quickly in Spanish: Recuerden, la fecha límite para inscribir a los niños de cuatro años en un programa de pre-kinder en escuelas públicas, gratis y a tiempo completo, es mañana, 23 de abril. Miércoles, 23 de abril.

So, with that, I want to tell you, you’re about to get some great music and entertainment and enlightenment. But before I leave, I want to say a word about our friend Birdie here, who is our ambassador for a clean environment – helping us each and every day to think about what we can do, because there’s so much we can do as individuals. I happen to be the recycling czar in my household. I make sure if something is not put in the right container, that is corrected immediately. Nothing makes me more upset than paper thrown in the trash can, we don’t like that one bit. Paper goes in the paper recycling. I have been known around City Hall to help people improve their recycling behavior. Well, Birdie does that all over this city. Let’s give Birdie a round of applause, thanking Birdie’s extraordinary efforts.


And remember, even something as simple as doing a little more recycling, helping your family members to make sure they’re recycling everything they can, turning off a light when you don’t need it on. All of these things help us to create a cleaner environment. There’s literally a role for every single citizen in helping us to create a cleaner environment. And every citizen – and this is ultimately what Earth Day is about – every citizen has to demand to policymakers constant improvement in our efforts for cleaner air and cleaner water, our efforts to fight global warming. You’re going to see a lot in the coming weeks and months as we find ways to reduce emissions in this city, as we find ways to retrofit buildings. Things that will make a huge impact on our future, but we need you to keep that demand high. We need you to say to your policymakers, this is about all of us. This is about our survival, and it’s time for us to do things in some new ways. We have it in us. We’ve come so far since Earth Day began in 1970, now we have to take the next step. So have a wonderful day, a day of celebration, a day of recommitment to a greener future. Thank you and God bless you all.  

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