2005 State of the City Address - by Michael M. Bloomberg, Jan 12, 2005 TwitterÂ Mayor Bloomberg's 2005 State of the City Address The mayor's challengers respond to the State of the City address: Charles Barron Fernando Ferrer Virginia Fields Gifford Miller Steven Shaw Anthony Weiner The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City Address as delivered at Hostos Community College in the Bronx: Good afternoon and thank you. It's one of the great thrills of my life to be here and I hope all of you appreciate just what a wonderful city we have. Mr. Speaker Miller, Members of the City Council, Comptroller Thompson, Public Advocate Gotbaum, Borough Presidents - all five, former Mayor Koch and distinguished guests. It's great to be in the Bronx, the borough of Colin Powell, and Regis Philbin, and Lauren Bacall, and Jerry Orbach, Jennifer Lopez, and in about one hour, Randy Johnson. Randy actually has to sit down with me for some tips on how to deal with the New York City press corps but I'll be doing that. Thank you all for coming. And please join me in thanking Doctor Dolores Fernandez and the students and faculty of Hostos College for having us here this afternoon. Over the years, Hostos College has truly lived up to its motto of being a "Jewel of the South Bronx." And under Doctor Fernandez's leadership, it shines more brightly now than ever. So, that's a real tribute to her, to City University Chancellor, Matt Goldstein, yes he deserves a round of applause, and to someone else I want to acknowledge: A graduate and former trustee of the CUNY system, who has served our city with distinction, my friend, Herman Badillo. We're also joined by some special guests here on the stage I wanted you to meet: Lieutenant Joseph Ferrera, who is in his 40th year with the NYPD; Firefighter James Mills, who last year won the FDNY's highest award for bravery; Corrections Officer Kathleen Collins, who saved an inmate's life at Rikers Island recently; Carlin Anderson, who, 20 years ago, was one of the first women to join the Sanitation Department; and Dr. Andrew Whiznia, who heads Jacobi Medical Center's great Pediatric AIDS Unit here in the Bronx. These are the people who make our city great, and I wanted you to meet them. There are also some other members- other people that we wanted you to meet, some members of the press. We have three reporters here who deserve special recognition. They are Danny Marin, Jacob Clemente, and Janita Mercado. They're middle school students in the Bronx, with us today on assignment for a borough-wide student journalism initiative called "The Knowledge Project." And I wanted to welcome them. Three years ago, I was inaugurated as the 108th Mayor of this great city. I remember looking out across the crowd that had gathered on the plaza at City Hall that freezing afternoon. And in the distance, above everyone's heads, smoke was still rising from the World Trade Center site. New Yorkers there - and throughout the city - were asking ourselves the same questions: Will we be able to come back? Can we recover? Will we be safe? Would we ever be the same? Those were the question marks hanging over our City's future. Three years later, I can stand before you and tell you that, we have answered those questions. We are safer today than we have ever been in modern memory. We have taken our City from fiscal crisis to fiscal stability. We are building new buildings. We are buying our first homes. We are reopening our waterfront. We are creating new jobs. We've redoubled our commitment to fighting disease and to ending homelessness. We are making our school system the best in the nation. Where once there was doubt, New Yorkers believe again. There is a spirit, a confidence, an expectation for the future that is new and exciting. And does anyone think we are finished? Does anyone think we can't do more, go further, be even better? Let me tell youâ€¦We're just getting started! The state of our City is strong - and we are going to make it even stronger for the future. We will do that by building on our successes - and building "A City of Opportunity." Together, we will foster opportunity by making the safest American city even safer. Together, we will broaden opportunity by meeting the social and human needs of our people. Together, we will cultivate opportunity by improving the quality of life in every community, and making New York a more livable city. Together, we will expand opportunity by creating jobs - in all five boroughs - for all New Yorkers. Finally, and most importantly, we will bestow the blessings of opportunity on our children. That means providing all students with first-rate education. That is their fundamental civil right and we're going to give it to them. Creating this opportunity - building on the progress we have made - is not something that happens on its own. We have made great progress, not by putting patronage and politics ahead of the public interest. And together we will continue to fight for our city by being fiercely independent, by pursuing the people's business, not the business of the special interests, and by working day and night to provide innovative, honest, and responsible leadership. And I promise you once again, I will continue to not make just the tough decisions, but the right decisions - based on one standard and one standard only: What's best for the people of this great city. That is how we have moved - and will move - forward. That is how we have met - and will meet - the challenges ahead. That is how we have made - and will make - New York greater still. Let's start with safety. The ability to walk the streets without looking over your shoulder- it's essential to fostering opportunity and equality for all New Yorkers. Three years ago - in the aftermath of 9/11, and in the midst of a worsening recession - many New Yorkers would have been satisfied if we had simply maintained the reductions in crime achieved during the 1990s. But I wouldn't have been. And I am proud to report that today we've driven crime 14% lower than it was when I stood before you three years ago. Rape, a particularly vicious crime, is down 9%. During 2004, we had the fewest murders since 1963. And here in the Bronx, the NYPD has reduced murder by an astonishing 34% since 2001. The subways are safer, public housing is safer. Last month, the FBI ranked New York's crime rate the lowest among the nation's 25 biggest cities. To some, these are just statistics, but to me, these numbers represent lives saved and families spared the hurt and anguish of being victimized. But there's more that we can do. During 2005, we're going to work to make New Yorkers even safer against crime with a three-part strategy: A laser-like concentration of resources where they're needed most; increased use of state-of-the-art crime-fighting technology; and a continued zero tolerance for quality of life crimes. First, Operation Impact shows our success in focusing resources on problem people and problem places. Last year, officers made more than 33,000 arrests in Impact Zones, reducing crime by 26%, and murders by 40%. Year Three of Operation Impact will team experienced officers with 1,000 of last Friday's graduates from the Police Academy - the newest of the 8,000 officers we've hired since 2002. Second - during 2005 - we're going to upgrade our crime-fighting technology. That includes our multi-year modernization of the 911 system and a major upgrade of CompStat, which will take it to the next level by establishing a Real Time Crime Fighting Center at One Police Plaza. It will provide same-day information on emerging crime patterns, and lead to quicker arrests, so that spikes don't become trends. And third, we're going to continue to prevent quality of life crimes. Because whether it's jumping turnstiles, aggressive panhandling, or other "broken windows" offenses - some may say they're petty crimes, but if left unchecked, they permit more serious crimes to flourish. That's why we're launching a major new initiative to stop graffiti. It will include an 80-member NYPD anti-graffiti task force, with coordinators in each police precinct. Our success in making New Yorkers safer extends beyond reducing crime though. Traffic and pedestrian safety are also at record levels. Last year - thanks to better traffic engineering and stepped-up DWI enforcement - New York City had fewer pedestrian and auto fatalities than at any time since we started keeping track back in 1910. The Fire Department is also leading the way. Last year, we had the fewest fire fatalities in 85 years! In fact, there have been fewer fire deaths over the last three years than in any three-year period since the FDNY started keeping records back in 1916. And that's a record of accomplishment we're going to build on. New York City also leads the nation in homeland security. Before September 11th, terrorism was the farthest thing from our minds. But we have had to adjust to the new reality - the more dangerous world we live in. From the ground up, we've had to find innovative, tough-minded, and effective ways to protect our city. I'm proud to lead an incredible team of professionals in this crucial and demanding task. And proud that whether it's the FDNY's superb hazmat and rescue teams, or the NYPD's internationally recognized leadership in intelligence and counter-terrorism, or the trailblazing syndromic surveillance performed by our Health Department, or the Office of Emergency Management's simulations and training - working together as never before - City agencies are prepared to protect New Yorkers and respond if necessary against the unthinkable. This is a job that will never be done. We can't rest - not for a minute - nor can we stop in our intelligence, counter-terrorism, and response capabilities. We've fought hard for the distribution of Federal Homeland Security dollars based on risk, and not as political pork. We've made progress, but we won't stop until all the money is distributed based on risk, and risk alone. New York is protecting the nation, not just itself - and Washington has to do its part, too. New York City can't be short-changed any more. Enough! We will never forget that the first battle in the global war on terror began on our streets 40 months ago today. Nor will we forget the New Yorkers who have fallen serving our country and our city on distant shores. We honor all those who defend our nation - including those with us today. Would you soldiers please stand up so we can thank you for protecting our democracy? Members of the military: Marines, soldiers, Air Force, Coast Guard. Our military forces not only are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other places around the world, they are also on the front lines of distributing our city's and our country's aid to the victims of the terrible events in Southeast Asia. After 9/11, aid from around the world poured into our city. We said we'd never forget that show of kindness - and we aren't now. New Yorkers are opening our hearts to comfort and support those devastated by this enormous catastrophe. And we in this city also show compassion every day by broadening opportunity for all New Yorkers who need help: people without a place to live or sleep, for example. Homelessness has no place in our city of opportunity. Now, the easiest thing in the world for us to do is to do nothing, or to just tinker with the system on the margins. To innovate though- it takes real progress and requires change, and taking on bureaucratic inertia and entrenched interests. For 40 years- for 20 years, our city struggled with homelessness and made so little progress. Today, we are bringing courage and compassion to this issue - and action. During the last fiscal year, we placed a record- more than 28,000 homeless men, women, and children in permanent homes. But, we also recognized that, for too long, we've focused on crisis management, instead of on long-term solutions. In the process, shelters that were designed to be a safety net have become semi-permanent housing for thousands of New Yorkers - including children who are growing up without ever having had a home of their own. We're not going to let that happen to another generation. By shifting to real solutions - and also by requiring people to do more to help themselves - we are working to realize one of our most important goals: As we pledged some six months ago, to eliminate chronic homelessness in this city within the next five years and we're going to do it. Most importantly, we're aggressively acting to prevent homelessness before it happens. A few months ago, in the South Bronx and in other high-need communities, we launched our "Home Base" program. It mobilizes community groups, landlords, tenant associations, and others, to keep at-risk families out of City shelters, and in their own homes. Many of our homeless have histories of substance abuse, or are struggling with mental or physical illness. The solution for them is supportive housing. It provides on-site services that help troubled people get their lives back on track. This year, we will persuade State leaders to join New York City in our campaign to develop 12,000 units of supportive housing in our city. And we'll ensure that all those in need of emergency shelter are treated with respect. We are reforming the intake process for families seeking aid. We are shutting down the old Emergency Assistance Unit - a place of despair for families, and a place of disappointment for those who have dedicated their lives to helping people in need. And early next year, we'll break ground on a new intake center. Our Administration for Children's Services is also making an enormous difference in the lives of children and families. Last year, we completed a record number of adoptions - 2,500 boys and girls. That's more than 80% of the kids who were eligible to be adopted during 2004. And last year, there were fewer than 20,000 children in foster care - the lowest number since 1987. And because we're linking more troubled families to support services - instead of to the courts - we've cut by 80% the number of kids placed in foster care due to a family crisis. This is an amazing number. We've committed to protecting our most vulnerable New Yorkers and we're not going to stop. During 2005, our Health Department will implement licensing and inspection reforms to help children who are in day care keep them healthy and safe. And make no mistake: We are committed to keeping all New York's senior centers open, and taking care of those who built our city. We'll also continue to be a leader in stopping the terrible scourge of domestic violence. These are ugly crimes that turn victims' lives inside out, leaving them physically battered, emotionally anguished, and, often, with their financial lives in ruin. Over the last three years, we have reduced domestic violence crimes by 27% - and we're going to build on that success. During 2005, we'll open the Family Justice Center in Brooklyn. It will be a national model. Women and children fleeing domestic violence will at one location, be able to meet with a prosecutor, receive help in obtaining public assistance and new housing, and find counseling and spiritual support, in their own languages, which will help them start their lives over again. For the first time since World War II, life expectancy in New York City is higher than the national average. And over the next 12 months, our Health Department's trailblazing "Take Care New York" campaign will continue to help New Yorkers live longer, healthier lives. And because the City Council worked with us to pass the Smoke Free Workplace Act, that should continue to improve. Ladies and gentlemen congratulations, you did the right thing. Our aggressive outreach, education, and HIV-testing campaigns also will work to roll back the AIDS epidemic here in the South Bronx, and in other communities. The continuing turnaround of the Health and Hospitals Corporation will ensure that every New Yorker - regardless of income - can get the best hospital attention possible. And we'll protect our public hospitals, and the City's budget, by working to ensure that State Medicaid reforms - which are badly needed - don't wind up shifting burdens to our hospitals, and reducing their ability to serve New Yorkers. Making New York a city of opportunity for all also means attacking poverty. This tax season, the City - for the first time - offers an Earned Income Tax Credit. In addition to the Federal and State EITC's, it will help hardworking New Yorkers who are struggling to make ends meet. It will put money back in their pockets, and back into the city's economy. And for you homeowners who bailed the city out of the fiscal crisis, we will offer another $400 property tax rebate as our thank you for being there when the city needed you! Your sacrifice helped preserve the great quality of life that defines our city of opportunity. This is something to be proud of. Even though we inherited a fiscal crisis, and cut City spending by more than $3 billion, and kept controllable spending in the City budget flat, we've learned to do more with less. Our quality of life is better than it was three years ago and it continues to get better. This didn't happen by magic. The 70s showed how easy it was to drive jobs away. Crime, garbage in the streets, homelessness; these are all job killers. Improving our quality of life has taken independent leadership, effective management, hard work by our dedicated municipal work force, and you! And it has sent a clear message to those who create jobs in all five boroughs: New York City is open for business. We're going to get a job for everybody that wants to work here. Let me give you some examples of what we're doing to improve our city. Our Sanitation Department has launched "Operation N.I.C.E." N-I-C-E - which stands for "Neighborhood Intensive Clean-up Effort." It's a block-by-block strategy for identifying and cleaning litter-filled vacant lots and other problem areas. And the result is that, today, New York's streets are cleaner than they've been in 30 years. This year, we'll also be working with the City Council to put a ceiling on the capacity of waste transfer stations in the South Bronx, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and other communities. These communities have been too heavily burdened for too long. And we're not going to go and- yes that's right- we're not going to pit one community against another. We will all do our part. We will also continue to reduce what callers to 311 tell us - loudly - is the City's Number One quality-of-life problem: noise. Six months ago, our Administration proposed the first major overhaul of the City Noise Code in more than 30 years. It will curb excessive noise in our neighborhoods. It has the support of the nightlife, construction, and real estate industries. And today, I urge the members of the City Council to pass a revised Noise Code this year. New Yorkers don't want to wait any longer for the peace, quiet, and good night's sleep we all deserve. It's time to act. We're also building better lives for New Yorkers by transforming the face of our city: Creating and preserving housing, reclaiming our long-abandoned and neglected waterfront, and making over entire communities - from the Bronx, to Brooklyn, to Manhattan's Far West Side. Every day, we read about the astronomical price of housing in New York. That hot real estate market represents a strong vote of confidence in our future. But there's a catch: this success is pricing homeownership beyond the reach of more and more working New Yorkers. That's a major threat to our economy, and our ability to create more jobs. To meet it, we've launched the biggest affordable housing initiative New York has seen in 20 years. It's on course to meet our goal of funding the creation and preservation of affordable housing for 200,000 New Yorkers by the end of 2008. It is bringing new homes - and new opportunity - to communities all over the city. It's helping low-income and middle-income families alike. It's giving families across New York the chance to share in the great American dream of owning their own homes. Look around you. You will see it taking shape right before your eyes over the next 12 months. Here in the South Bronx, we'll move ahead on preserving and building more than 1,500 houses and apartments. In Williamsburg, we'll open the first of 350 housing units in Schaefer Landing, where rents in 40% of the units will be pegged to low-income families. And in East New York, this spring we'll join East Brooklyn Congregations to break ground on more than 800 affordable homes. That will give hundreds of families the opportunity to own their own homes. And there's someone here on stage who understands just how happy those people will be. His name is Tomas Vallejo. He's a mail clerk at John Jay College. With the help of our administration's down payment assistance program, he just bought his first home in Cypress Hills. Tomas, bienvenidos al sueĂ±o Americano. Every New Yorker deserves a good home - and that includes the one out of every 20 New Yorkers who live in public housing. So this year, the Housing Authority, helped by the Housing Development Corporation, will launch an unprecedented four-year investment of nearly $2 billion to modernize and preserve public housing. At the same time, many communities are being unwanted- are battling unwanted over-development. Building on what we learned from the Staten Island Overdevelopment Task Force, we're working with homeowners and homebuilders to prevent inappropriate development, and preserve the traditional character of Throgs Neck, Bay Ridge, Kew Gardens, and other neighborhoods. Communities across the city, however, also need more parks and open spaces. And that's why last year we added 150 acres to the biggest and best City parks system in the nation - much of it along our 578 miles of waterfront. They include Fort Totten - whose dramatic views of Long Island Sound make it destined to boast- to be one of the most beautiful parks in the city. This year, we'll finalize the master plan for the biggest new City park in nearly 100 years: Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island. We'll begin construction of the Harlem Piers - opening up a long-abandoned stretch of the Hudson waterfront to public use. Here in the Bronx, we'll begin an historic five-year, $220 million campaign to improve 38 of this borough's parks and playgrounds. It's the biggest investment in the City parks in nearly 70 years - and it will produce an incredible green legacy throughout the Bronx. Of course, improving our quality of life means more than just cultivating greenery... it means cultivating opportunity for New Yorkers, for all New Yorkers. It ensures that - in an increasingly competitive global economy - this remains the city where businesses want to locate, and where ambitious and hard-working men and women want to live. A growing economy however, is not just about numbers and forecasts. It's about New Yorkers supporting their families, with good wages and benefits that include health care. When I came into office, New York's economy was hemorrhaging jobs. Unemployment eventually rose in this city as high as 8.6%. But we've come back strong - and we're creating jobs and opportunity in all five boroughs. Today the unemployment rate is down to 5.4%. For the first time in 16 years, New York City's unemployment rate is as low as the entire nation's. Since January 2002, we've moved almost 35,000 New Yorkers off the welfare rolls. Now were helping thousands and thousands of New Yorkers get on the payrolls. During 2005, we expect to create at least 50,000 new private sector jobs. A construction boom is generating construction jobs. The number of new permits set another record last year, and is up by 20% since 2000. Over the last year, some of the nation's biggest corporations gave New York their vote of confidence. Bank of America and Citigroup are building new office towers, and Virgin America Airlines has found new headquarters space in Lower Manhattan. Pfizer brought 1,000 new jobs to our city, with plans to create 3,000 more in the years ahead. Our economy - which was written off three years ago - is back, and it's back in a big way. This success is because of a three-part strategy we've had to create jobs. You've already heard me talk about how we're making the City more livable. The next step is diversifying our economy. That means encouraging, for example, film and television production. Last fall, Steiner Studios opened the biggest soundstage on the East Coast, bringing hundreds of new jobs to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A year ago, at Silvercup Studios, we said we'd also push for job-creating tax credits for movie and TV production and I commend the City Council for passing that legislation - and last week, I signed it into law. Ladies and gentlemen it is going to make a big difference. Diversification means tourism: our second-largest industry. And the good news is that visitors are flocking back to New York. We hosted nearly 40 million tourists during 2004 - a new record. Many continue to come to enjoy our unparalleled cultural institutions. Hotel occupancy is up; so is traffic at all our airports. And after several years of decline due to 9/11, the number of overseas visitors climbed during 2004. And to put icing on the cake, two of the world's largest cruise companies, the Norwegian and Carnival Cruise Ship lines, have recently committed to New York as their exclusive Northeastern port of call through 2017. Last month, the Governor signed the long-awaited legislation to expand the Javits Convention Center. And next month, hundreds of thousands of visitors will start pouring into New York's Central Park through "The Gates" - the dramatic, free art installation that will make our city an even more popular tourist destination this winter. Diversification though also means industry. In a few weeks, we'll launch a comprehensive industrial policy. It will involve designing new industrial business zones and creating new incentives to encourage long-term investment in manufacturing, warehousing and other industrial businesses. We'll also select a developer for the East River Science Park. That will capitalize on our world-class health care institutions, diversifying our economy even more, and make us a leader in the growing biotech industry. The last element of - in the biotech industry, you can applaud. The last element of our job creation strategy is making the City business-friendly and that means investing in all five boroughs. The key is our independent leadership that lets us solve the big, seemingly unmanageable problems that have stymied growth for too long. You don't have to go very far to find a good example. Just look a few blocks from here, where the long-awaited revival of the Bronx Terminal Market is finally beginning. It's an area that has been mired in controversy since the days of the Lindsay Administration. But as Adolfo Carrion can tell you, the years of inaction are finally over. Some of the dilapidated structures there have already come down. The stores and riverfront park that will eventually replace them will bring 2,000 permanent new jobs to the community, and be the shining gateway that the Bronx needs and deserves. And in a few weeks - less than 10 minutes from here - the biggest wholesale seafood market in the nation will open at Hunts Point, and bring with it 500 new jobs and $1 billion in economic activity. We're making sure, incidentally, that local residents get a fair shot at the jobs coming to Hunts Point. And that's why our Department of Small Business Services established a community-based job-training and placement partnership called "Hunts Point Works." Efforts like that have put people in jobs in a thousand different businesses across the city. Two women who are leading the effort in Hunts Point are with us today: Amy Betanzos of the Wildcat Services Corporation and Josephine Infante of the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation. During 2005, City projects will transform communities in the other four boroughs, as well. Let's start on Staten Island, where, by this time next year, the reconstructed Staten Island Railroad will start supporting hundreds of new jobs at the Howland Hook ship terminal. And Jim Molinaro will join us in rebuilding streets, sewers, water lines, and piers in the Stapleton area - towards creating the first open space, housing and jobs at the Homeport. We've talked about it long enough, now let's do it. Jim, the Homeport has been like the way Mark Twain described the weather: Everybody talks about itâ€¦but nobody does anything about it. But that's going to change. Isn't it Jim? You betcha it is. Cross the bay to the South Brooklyn to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, where a new - and yeah, a big smile on Marty's face - where a new industrial center employing 400 people will be in operation. Marty Markowitz I know you will be with us at Red Hook when a new cruise terminal that will create 600 Brooklyn-based jobs opens for business by the end of the year. And we'll work together to see the construction of a new areas for the Brooklyn Nets, the capstone of Downtown Brooklyn's rebirth. Come up north to Queens Plaza, where a multi-million dollar reconstruction will complement Helen Marshall's efforts to develop the city's newest central business district. And in Flushing, the first phase of a joint community-City master plan will be to turn five acres of City-owned land into a high-quality, mixed use retail and entertainment center. We can do it Helen and we're going to do it together. All right, all right. I know what you're thinking- we're neglecting Manhattan. But yes, Virginia, we've got our eye on Manhattan, too. In the last three years, we've made great strides in stabilizing Downtown and preventing an exodus of companies. Now we've got to dedicate ourselves to ensuring Lower Manhattan's long-term future as a global center of commerce. It's New York's historic birthplace, and we can make it a great place to work. This year, we'll unveil our master plan to open up downtown's East River Waterfront. It's part of our ongoing partnership with the State to revitalize Lower Manhattan. Then there's transportation. The reality is that it's harder to get to Lower Manhattan than it is to get to Midtown - a major impediment to commercial growth. The single most important project for the future of Lower Manhattan is the new rail link connecting it directly to JFK Airport and Long Island. And in 2005, we will succeed in converting unused Federal tax benefits into funds for that purpose. Today, I'm also directing the Economic Development Corporation to explore with our partners at the State, and you have Charlie Gargano here, and with the Downtown Alliance, potential incentives for Lower Manhattan that would replace expiring Federal programs. They ensure- yes- and we're going to ensure that existing companies stay - and new companies are attracted - downtown. Further Uptown, Virginia, this year we'll show that New York can still dream big and build big. Yesterday, the City Council's Land Use Committee approved our historic plan to rezone 60 blocks on Manhattan's Far West Side. It has wide support, including from Borough President Fields. That puts us on course to turn this area into the city's next great, commercial, residential, and recreational destination. It will be the future site of almost 40 million square feet of development space. It will include almost 14,000 apartments, of which 25% will be affordable. The Hudson Yards Plan will create more than 280,000 new permanent jobs - many of them in our crucial tourism and hospitality industries. We'll also move ahead with our plans to break ground on the New York Sports and Convention Center. That's a central element of our bid for the 2012 Olympics, and it will help New York land major conventions and trade shows that we now simply can't compete for. This is an investment which will pay off for the City in increased jobs and tax revenues - an enormous opportunity for New Yorkers. That's exactly why we're so strongly committed to it. That's how we're creating jobs for our people. New York is at the dawn of a major new era of construction and development. The re-development of the Far West Side will create 230,000 new construction jobs alone. And I think all New Yorkers should have a fair chance at these jobs. So, as the initiator of so many big projects, I think City government has a duty to ensure they get that fair chance. That's what a city of opportunity is all about. So as another part of our economic development strategy, we're firmly committed to broadening opportunities in employment and contracting. My Executive Order 36 expressed just that determination: to encourage City contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses. We're making sure the record of City agencies improves as they pursue that objective. A quintessential New Yorker, Congressman Charlie Rangel, asked me recently if I was ready to commit myself to taking another step toward making opportunity for all New York a reality. Well Congressman, the answer is yes. Together, with our partners in the real estate, construction communities, and our friends in organized labor, we can make it happen. We're blessed with the world's most talented and hard-working pool of construction workers, represented by the Buildings and Construction Trades Council. I know that they want to see a pool of workers that's busy, that's growing, and that's representative of New York's diversity, and that's why I'm proud to announce a new initiative called "Building Jobs Through Building New York." Its mission will be to ensure that the major construction projects our economic development strategy is helping to create are built safely and fairly, with opportunities for all. The City will focus initially on how its construction industry can directly benefit young people and returning veterans. Within the next few weeks, I will establish the Mayor's Commission on Construction Opportunity, made up of developers, contractors, union representatives, senior members of our Administration, and I'm happy to say Congressman Rangel himself. It will explore how the private sector can also ensure opportunities for all. Our economy is growing again and we want to make sure that no one gets left behind. And that includes some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers: those who do not have, or are not on course to receive, either a high school diploma or G.E.D. Sadly today, that describes tens of thousands of young people in our city. It is a tragedy and one we must address head on. We want to give all of our young people an opportunity to succeed. So this September, our Department of Education will launch a dramatic new vocational initiative targeted to such vulnerable young people. Called "Learning to Work," it will help them get the vocational and educational credentials they need, and also connect them to careers in growing sectors of our economy. "Learning to Work" will include study programs, internships, and paid work. Students will participate in a full-day educational program, or an evening high school program, or a literacy program - all with workforce connections. We hope it will attract back into the schools those who have left because school lacked relevance to their lives, and they didn't stay engaged. We failed too many of our children in the past - something we are committed not to do again. The challenge of reforming our schools of giving fresh opportunities to those who were failed by the old system, while also raising the bar of achievement for all our current students is simply enormous. Don't forget: we've got more than 13 hundred schools, 85,000 teachers, and 1.1 million kids. More kids than there are people in Detroit, and almost as many as the populations of San Francisco and Miami combined! But there's no more important job than bestowing a future of opportunity on every one of those students. That's why we fought to establish mayoral control of the school system. It's why we then boldly and systematically overhauled and streamlined the management structure of the schools. It's why we eliminated the patronage-infested community school boards. It's why we put parent coordinators in every school in the city. For the first time we're ensuring that parents finally get the information and respect they deserve. It's why we established a citywide school curriculum in reading and math to make all of our students proficient in these fundamentals in the early grades. It's why we've brought math and literacy coaches into the schools. It's why we have given our 5,000 of our newest teachers experienced mentors who help them do their best in the classrooms. And it's why we'll be in court tomorrow, fighting to ensure that the landmark ruling in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit is upheld so that the State's shameful shortchanging of our schoolchildren finally ends! Last year's citywide test results showed that we're on the right track. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in math increased in five of the six grades tested. Achievements in English were not as consistent, but the gains made by 3rd and 8th grades students were the biggest one-year improvements seen since testing began. And just last week, a net of 11 of our schools were dropped from the state's list of schools under "registration review" - those are the ones that are in danger of being closed for incurable failure. Since 2002, we've cut the number of these kinds of schools by more than 50%, to an all-time low. Not every student, not every classroom or school, has improved. We've only just begun. But we are moving forward. Maintaining that progress is why last year we ended the social promotion of 3rd grade students who weren't ready for 4th grade work. It was the right thing to do, and the results proved it. The rate of 3rd grade students attending our Summer Success Academy who earned admission to the 4th grade more than doubled what we'd seen in years past. One of those students is with us today. Her name is Tennesee Banola. She attends PS 119 right here in the Bronx. She's here today with her mother Jacqueline, who told us how proud she is of her daughter's accomplishments. Well, Jacqueline, Tennesee, we're proud of you both. People like the Banola family show that standards, support, and patient effort pays off - and that's the course we're going to stay on with our 3rd graders, our 5th graders, and all our students. This year, we are also going to do more to engage our most capable students. We're going to maintain all existing "gifted and talented" programs in the schools and districts where they now are. And, this September, we'll start to create such programs in historically under-served districts. By September 2006, we'll also significantly expand Advanced Placement classes in large high schools that have traditionally lacked them. The goal is to challenge the best of our students in all our neighborhoods because we believe that excellence should be reached for, and rewarded, wherever it appears. That's also why we're bringing accountability and fairness to our city's "out-of-school" programs as well. I want to thank here the Wallace Foundation and its president, Christine De Vita, for committing up to $12 million that will help us ensure high-quality out-of-school programs for students in every neighborhood. To help all our students succeed, we will also continue to reform and rebuild our schools in the year ahead. That includes expanding the number of new, small, and academically rigorous secondary schools. Over the last two years, we've created 100 such schools in all five boroughs. These schools typically have no more than 500 students. They have something else in common too, though: They work. In new small schools, the promotion rate is 93% - more than 20 points higher than the city average and a full 50 points higher than in some of the "super-sized" schools they have replaced. That progress is part of why the citywide graduation rate has shown small but steady increases over the last three years. We're going to continue to develop more small schools and more charter schools as part of the most aggressive education capital plan New York City has ever seen. The $13.1 billion construction that will take place over the next five years will turn schools that are struggling into schools that are succeeding. And it will help make every public school in the city a center of educational excellence. It will wipe out pockets of overcrowding, reduce class size in kindergarten and grades one through three, and create new labs and gyms and an up-to-date technology infrastructure in schools throughout the city. It includes building 95 new school buildings with 66,000 classroom seats. That will be on top of the nearly 34,000 new seats we've created over the last two years. And because we've thoroughly reformed the School Construction Authority, we've reduced bid prices by one-third, without sacrificing speed or quality. That's a product of the ethic of accountability we have established - for the first time - in New York's public schools. For another example of its success, look at how we're also making our schools safer. A year ago, when crime and disorder in a few schools threatened to get out of hand, we didn't duck the blame. We acted. The outcome? We've reduced major crime at these 16 "Impact" schools by 46% this school year. The turnaround in five of them has been so encouraging, that last week we removed them from the Impact program. That shows what we can accomplish: our schools are getting safer; parents are now welcome partners in education; we're setting and enforcing standards; and test scores are rising; and Chancellor Klein and his team are well on their way to creating the best public school system in the nation. But it's not just them. The credit also belongs to the dedicated teachers. And I've met some amazing teachers whose love of teaching and concern for their students is inspiring. The credit belongs to the teachers, to parent coordinators, to principals who go beyond the call of duty, and to the parents who give their time and passion to improving our schools. And of course, the credit also goes to our children. Let me say something directly to those kids: You are good, you are smart. You haven't failed us. In too many cases, the system was failing you. And we will work day and night to help you succeed. And together, we will, and you will. I will stand - and this administration will stand - with teachers parents and administrators who embrace reform, who share our commitment to make our schools better. We can't allow school reform to be politicized or stifled by critics who always advocate for change, but can never agree on what change. They will always find problems, the glass will never be full enough, and another class of students will be lost. But we won't turn back. Because the future of our children - and the future of our city, your city of opportunity - depend on it. It would have been easy to let the system continue to fail our kids. It would have been easy and it would have been wrong. The progress we're making in reforming our schools, in reviving our economy, in driving crime down, and in enriching our quality of life, didn't just happen. It's the product of independent leadership, a commitment to the kind of government New Yorkers deserve. And that includes keeping the workings of government above reproach. Six years ago, the voters said that campaign contributions from those who do business with the City should be disclosed and restricted. We're working with the Campaign Finance Board to fulfill that mandate from the voters. And I challenge every elected official to join us in ending "pay-to-play." Pay-to-play taints policy decisions. It breeds cynicism. And it shortchanges taxpayers. It isn't about how much money you can spend. It's about what you owe if you take the money. New Yorkers want reform. They voted for it. They've waited long enough. It's time to deliver. People elected us to deliver...to deliver opportunitiesâ€¦to focus on problems, not play politicsâ€¦to produce results, not press releasesâ€¦and most importantly, to give every New Yorker the opportunity to dream. Many of you in this room know about that. You've lived it. Well, so have I. I never thought I'd be here today. Supported by a mother who went back to work after my father died, and paying for college with a combination of loans and a job parking cars, I never would have predicted where my life would take me, and I never had anything handed to me. But I was lucky. I could dream. And, like millions of others, I brought my dream to the right place: this city that welcomes drivers and strivers - this city of opportunity. With all my heart I believe we have a responsibility to make that journey and those dreams possible for every New Yorker, now and in the future. I will never forget that freezing January day three years ago, but I take great pride - as every single New Yorker should - in what we've done, in how far we have come. I remember one of the questions on every mind back then: Will New York ever again be the same? The answer, of course is no. New York is going to be better! We're going to be better because we have had the courage to tackle old problems, and create new solutionsâ€¦better because we're living and working together - all of the communities in this city - as we've never done before. And we are going to be better because we have been through worse than we could ever imagine and have emerged even stronger and more compassionate. We may not agree on everything. In fact, that's one thing that will never change in this city. But I know we all share the same love and passion for this great city. And with our passion, our pride, and our people how can we not succeed? We are New York. Happy New Year to all of you. It will be a good one if we work hard. God Bless New York, and our city of opportunity. Read Gifford Miller's response here. Tweet Editor's Choice Everything Dot NYC Council 2.0: Rules Reform Outlines Next Steps in Open Data Overdue & Over Budget, Capital Projects Roll On Comments Comment(s) The comments section is provided as a free service to our readers. Gotham Gazette's editors reserve the right to delete any comments. Some reasons why comments might get deleted: inappropriate or offensive content, off-topic remarks or spam.