GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: State of the City JUMP TO YOUR DISTRICT
 
 

"STATE OF THE CITY"
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG
JANUARY 30, 2002

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I don't know that I'll ever get that applause if I come back. Thank you. Mr. Speaker, Members of the City Council, Honored Guests... First I want to congratulate both Gifford Miller on his election as the new Speaker of the City Council, and all your members. Let me also congratulate Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum and all 5 Borough Presidents, one of whom is not new, but, she's my Borough President. And also acknowledge Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming. And I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge Guy Molinari, who was one of the great Borough Presidents of all times and was so helpful to me, Guy, thank you for coming. And just to show you that I care about the commercial world, the provider of electricity to my home, Gene McGrath. Thank you. The voters have chosen us to work together at a moment in the City's history more critical than perhaps any other in our lifetimes. They want us to put aside partisan differences, and adhere to a new attitude of cooperation and collaboration. They know we are entering difficult times. They want us to make the difficult choices. And they want us to do so quickly, decisively, and together.

I know we will do it because although we have different political affiliations, we share the same faith- - - - our belief in New York.

When New Yorkers joined together on September 11th, we inspired the nation and changed forever the image of our urban America. City workers and ordinary citizens lifted themselves above personal tragedy and found the common spirit of humanity that unites us all. America embraced New York and we welcomed America's boundless support.

We have been attacked; we have been tested; and now we are on the path to renewal and recovery.

At the start of my administration I am pleased to report to you that the "state of the City" is strong. Today, among the proudest words spoken by an American are, "I am a New Yorker."

And this, after the terrible tragedy of September 11th. Now, no one doubts the resiliency of New Yorkers. Less than five months ago, New York City experienced the most lethal attack from a foreign enemy that has ever occurred in the history of our country. Almost 3,000 people died that day, including more than 400 of our firefighters, police officers, and emergency service workers.

New York has long been a City of champions. Now the world knows we are a City of Heroes.

We will always remember the bravery of those who gave their lives to save 25,000 fellow New Yorkers.

On behalf of this City, we make this pledge: Their bravery, will never be forgotten, their memory will endure.

We should also recognize how much we have learned -- about our City, our ties to the nation and the world. In the face of a vicious attack, New Yorkers came together, and helped each other cope with the loss, the pain, and the shock to our everyday lives. Due to the round-the-clock efforts of the workers at Ground Zero, the clean up and recovery at the World Trade Center site are far ahead of schedule and under budget.

Rescue and construction workers toiled - and still do --- day and night. The work at Ground Zero, the work there has proceeded far faster than anyone expected, proving that no one works as hard and as well as New Yorkers.

Under the leadership of Nick Scoppetta, we are rebuilding the Fire Department, and more than 300 probationary firefighters have been just sworn in.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Department of Emergency Management Commissioner Richie Sheirer, whose joint leadership has been hailed across the nation, have given us a base to fashion an even stronger public safety structure. As part of that effort we intend to rebuild our emergency command center that was destroyed in the devastating September attack. I have designated Senior Advisor Vincent LaPadula to coordinate the center's reconstruction at a new location in Brooklyn.

When New Yorkers join together, nothing can stop us.

Though we must start by rebuilding Lower Manhattan; that's only a start. We must stimulate economic growth across the City. We must modernize the management of government. We must renew our waterfront. And, we must reform our school system. And, we must be ever vigilant to make sure New York continues to be the safest large City in the nation.

Our crime rate continues to fall. Since the start of the New Year, crime is down more than 8%. We continue to focus on our quality of life. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has launched "Operation Clean Sweep," an initiative that targets quality of life violations by aggressively policing low-level offenders, and establishes a crime-tracking system for the City's homeless shelters.

To meet the new reality, of post-9/11, Commissioner Kelly has put a new emphasis on keeping our City safe from terrorism. In today's world, we must deal with both crime prevention and terrorism. To fight global threats, for the first time, the NYPD has created a Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and a Deputy Commissioner of Counter-Terrorism.

I am pleased to announce that Frank Libutti, a retired Marine Lieutenant General, is here with us today, and he will be the first Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism the City's ever had. He will direct training, prevention, and investigations. In addition, David Cohen, the new Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence, will be responsible for strengthening our ties to federal and state agencies, foreign governments, and the private sector.

And I am looking forward to continuing our work with secretaries Tommy Thompson of health and human services and Tom Ridge of homeland security for strategies for improving regional public health delivery systems in the event of a bio-terrorist attack.

But while we must prepare for the unthinkable, we are intensifying our efforts to bring other major events to our City. We are soliciting athletic and cultural extravaganzas. I will meet with the leaders of the two major political parties to encourage both the Republican and Democratic National Parties to hold their Conventions here in New York in 2004. And I wholeheartedly endorse Congressman Rangel's proposal to hold a one-day special session of Congress here in as well.

The meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York this week also demonstrates our strong commitment to free speech without disrupting activities. Our Police Department will once again prove that it has the experience and skill to coordinate peaceful demonstrations and world-class conventions at the same time ---- in the same City.

I could go on and on. The signs are all around us: New York is safe, New York is strong, New York is open for business, and New York is attractive to labor.

Since the attack, we have also forged a new partnership with leaders in Albany and Washington -- for the attack on the World Trade Center was an attack on our whole nation and all our ideals.

Let no one forget that New York City was on the frontline in the battle with terrorism. Today, almost everyone in our state capital understands that New York City is the economic engine that drives this state. And officials in Washington recognize that New York City is the nation's vital link to the global economy. For many years, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan highlighted the enormous contribution that New York makes to the nation's treasury, typically paying far more in taxes than it received in federal spending. He persistently argued that when New York flourished, the nation benefited with stronger tax revenues. I think it is fair to say that the lessons of Senator Moynihan are widely accepted today. Our leaders now understand that "what's good for New York is good for the nation."

On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank our President, George W. Bush for all that he has done to help New York. We should also be grateful to Senators Schumer and Clinton and our Congressional Delegation led by Charlie Rangel for their efforts to provide federal aid to the residents and businesses in our City. Federal investment in us is both compassionate and intelligent. As goes New York City, so goes this great country.

As for the help Governor Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Bruno and Assembly Speaker Silver gave this City over the last 4 months - to say we are grateful is a vast understatement. Gentlemen, we will not forget your generosity and leadership. On behalf of 8 million people, thank you again.

Even before September 11th, our economy was starting to sag, and now we face serious fiscal problems. The budget gaps for the next 3 years are momentous. They will not go away without sacrifice. Managing our budget will require discipline.

Our deficit is the product of several forces: a weaker economy that generates lower tax revenues, our obligations to pay higher salaries and wages, capital commitments that impose increased interest costs, and little surplus to USE in next year's budget. On February 13th, my administration will present a fiscal plan that outlines our specific priorities and programs.

New York is the most compassionate City in the world. We do more things for more people than any other municipality. But we are now in the midst of a fiscal crisis, one that we did not create, but one that together we must solve.

As you know, on New Year's Day, I announced a 20% personnel and expense reduction in the Office of the Mayor and urged my government colleagues to do the same. My Chief-of-Staff, Peter Madonia is almost finished in implementing both cuts. I commend the Speaker for reducing the stipends to Council leaders and for the Council's commitment to cut spending.

But that is just a beginning. Currently, New York City's municipal workforce has grown to be 1/7th the size of the whole federal government if you don't count the military. Our people serve 8 million citizens. Theirs serves 250 million. Put directly, today we just don't have the money to continue this level of staffing.

I know all you elected officials will demonstrate your leadership by sacrificing before they ask the other 8 million New Yorkers to do so. I promise to work with you to implement efficiencies in all our agencies and in your departments. If you cannot find ways to do more with less, I will be very happy to send in my staff to show you how! No budget ever existed that could not benefit from a fresh, "let's start from zero" approach. Thank you.

THESE ARE HARD TIMES.
WE MUST BE HARD-NOSED.
WE MUST BE HARD-HEADED.
BUT WE CANOT BE HARD-HEARTED.

Just because we can't do it today, doesn't mean we won't eventually be able to have the structures and programs we want. In many cases though, it will be necessary to postpone plans, delay dreams, and stretch out timeframes. We have no choice we cannot raise taxes at this time. And the law requires us to live within our means.

Let me focus in the limited time we have left on 6 examples of the kinds of initiatives my Administration is and will undertake.

First, we must search in all directions for ways to balance our budget. One example is the urgent need to reform tort laws in Albany. In 1978, New York City spent $23 million in tort payouts. In fiscal year 2001, that figure had jumped to an astronomical half a billion dollars, or more than 20 times what it was just 2 decades earlier. People with legitimate claims should get fairly compensated. But under the current system, New York pays far more than its fair share of damage awards.

The City's tort payouts are larger than the budgets of most City agencies; indeed they are bigger than the budgets of most municipalities in New York State. The hundreds of millions of dollars the City spends on tort judgments could be used to pay for vital services. It alone represents over $6,000 in extra salary we could otherwise give to each of our 80,000 teachers! And have no doubt, the rapping gavel of tort liability ultimately hammers the taxpaying public. Working with Deputy Mayor Carol Robles-Roman and Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, we will seek to reform the state's tort laws to make it fairer to all municipalities, including New York City. Unfortunately, many have the attitude that if it's the City's liability, it's not theirs. People that think that are about to experience a rude awakening as we have to do without!

There are other abuses that soak up our limited resources and I will document and attack each over the next months ahead. But Let there be no mistake. We face difficult budgetary decisions. Just eliminating abuse and waste will not close the budget gap. Working together to make choices, WE can solve our problems. Not easy - but necessary. And, by solving today's fiscal problems, we can assure a strong future in the years ahead.

The second initiative I'd like to mention is staffing. We must have the right people in place to do the problem solving. Since November my first priority has been to put together a team to lead New York City through the tough times we face. I am proud that we have attracted talented and dedicated individuals, from all five boroughs, from all walks of life, who represent a broad range of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Some of these individuals have built successful careers in the agencies they are now leading. Others are new to City government and will bring a fresh approach to traditional ways of doing things. Most importantly, they are all committed to working together, as a team.

Thirdly, we must create the best environment for public service we can to improve efficiency. That's why we created the "open office," popularly known as the "bullpen," just down the hall. Here in one room, everyone works close to each other, making it possible to test new ideas, get instant feedback, and exchange information on the spot. Nothing comes close to direct face-to-face contact; that's what the "bullpen" is all about. There are no walls, no barriers to communication, and not even much desk space. Anyone can get up and talk to anyone at any time, and that includes me.

We are already extending this emphasis on communication and teamwork to other levels of government. The days of bureaucratic warfare and inter-agency battles in the delivery of services should soon be history.

As elected officials, we must remind ourselves that we are here to serve all of the people, not just those who voted for us. That's why we are doing everything possible to create "Openness in Government."

Anyone can now contact City Hall 24 hours a day, via email or voicemail. Our City Hall press office is convening monthly meetings with representatives of the minority and ethnic media in the City. Thank you. "Open Government" is not just a slogan; it's the only effective way to deal with complicated problems.

As part of "Open Government," we will create a "Citizen Service Center," that will allow New Yorkers to reach all services by calling one phone number, "3-1-1." This will make City government accessible to every resident of this great City. Right now, New York City operates more than 40 separate call centers and hotlines, which can be an obstacle course for the average citizen. There are 11 pages of listings in the phone book under NYC. No one can be knowledgeable enough to find his or her needle in a haystack that big!

It will take time, but eventually New Yorkers will have only two numbers to reach government: 9-1-1 for emergencies and 3-1-1 for everything else.

We must also bring clarity to management of municipal agencies. Therefore, I am asking Deputy Mayor Marc Shaw to overhaul the Mayor's Management Report. After 25 years, this report grown to over 1,000 pages --- three volumes --- with more than 4,000 statistical indicators. The sheer size alone of this document makes it difficult for anyone to use.

The Mayor's Management Report should be easy to use and accessible electronically. Simply put, it must provide a way to open up management of our City services to citizens, civic groups and public officials.

We must bring exactly the same openness to our election process. I will introduce a program to improve ballot access and simplify voting, particularly for public initiated proposals and referendums. To open government and attract new ideas, the people themselves have twice explicitly voted for term limits. We cannot ignore their will. They want the openness new faces bring- and they will get it! We will not go back!

The fourth issue for today is education! We must fix our school system!

You and I represent all the neighborhoods of this City. Together, we need to provide a school system that serves all our communities and all of the people of this City. Fundamental reform of our school system is essential if we are serious about educating our children.

Currently, The Board of Education does not work for teachers, parents, students, or even for its members. It does not work for anyone!

There are simply too many cooks over at 110 Livingston Street, each with their own competing recipe, which produces a political stew rather than a sound education.

We do not need more commissions; we do not need more studies, we have waited too long for change. It's time to act.

If anybody didn't think that the time was now, just think what you saw in this council with the number of people that stood up and said enough.

I urge Speaker Silver, Majority Leader Bruno, their respective houses, the teachers, the business community, and parents to work with Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott and me to transform our educational system into a high quality school system that we can be proud of. To achieve systematic change in our schools, we must have Mayoral accountability in education.

Some people claim that mayoral control of the school system is just a "power grab." I disagree. This is not about power, but about accountability in education.

We do need to create more opportunities for parents to participate in our educational system. But local school boards are not the way. As many of you know, participation in local school board elections is often less than 3%. That means that more than 97% percent of the eligible voters are rejecting the current system of school governance by refusing to participate. The state legislature has already agreed to delay community school board elections. Now we should seek to abolish these boards totally. Parents want to talk to educators - not to "middlemen."

We cannot allow the forces of inertia and resistance to stand in the way of school reform. We cannot mortgage our children's future to politics and patronage.

Reforming the governance of our school system is just one of the efforts to start, we must start to improve education. We must remove disruptive kids from the classroom, we must strengthen teacher evaluation and training, we must improve teacher retention by focusing compensation on those educators just starting their careers. We must also give the principals the authority to match the responsibility they already have to run their schools so as to produce the results the parents want.

Think about this. More than 40% of our public school teachers quit within the first six years. More than 15% of our teachers are not certified, and under current state rules, they will not be allowed to teach in September 2003. Even worse, we are not able to deploy our most experienced and talented teachers where they are most needed.

The Board of Education is intrinsically incapable to meeting - of meeting the educational needs of our children. It must go.

Let us work together to reform our school system now. Make no mistake about it. All of us in this room were elected to improve education. And that does not mean simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the deck of our educational Titanic. When City Council members run for re-election in 2 short years, this time the voters will know where each individually stood on real reform. And the same for those of us with 4 year terms. Rightly or wrongly, the public has clearly said "enough." They are saying "Read our lips. Eliminate the Board of Education and the local school boards. Then, give us control over our schools through the Mayor."

The fifth subject I wanted to address with you today is of import-it is our livelihood, jobs and development.

Between 1992 and 2000, New York City's economy grew by 439,000 jobs. The number of working New Yorkers grew even faster than the number of jobs in the City. Now, we face a totally different climate: the showdown that began last spring has been aggravated by the attack on our City.

As we manage our budget and reform our schools, we must remember that the key to our future is a strong economy. Our initial focus must be on Lower Manhattan but a five - borough strategy is essential for long-term economic growth.

Under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, we are working closely with Governor Pataki and John Whitehead of the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation to stimulate growth. An appropriate memorial must be built on the World Trade Center site, but we must also rethink the entire role of Lower Manhattan, so that it can continue to be a world center as well a thriving residential community and magnet for tourists.

Essential to the future of Lower Manhattan is a rebuilt and improved transportation infrastructure. The MTA should be commended for reopening the Chambers Street station for the "E" train this week and for their plans to restore the #1 and #9 lines by the end of the year so New Yorkers from all boroughs can get to work.

But, still more must be done to improve access to Lower Manhattan from the west and east. Improved ferry service is critical. Already, more people commute by ferry in New York City than in any other City in the United States. But, new faster ferries are needed.

The decision by American Express to return to their headquarters at the World Financial Center is the best example of corporate commitment to this City. Ken Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express, recognizes that this City is the heart of the global economy and that American Express' future is New York's future. Just let me tell you, I've started to use only my American Express Card after Ken made that commitment and I urge you to do it too.

Tourism is one of the City's most important industries, generating jobs in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and cultural institutions. An expanded and enhanced convention center is a necessity if New York is to compete for major conventions and meetings. We must work with Governor Pataki to enlarge the Javits Center so we can attract more visitors to this City.

Improving mass transit to the far west side is a necessity to stimulate new activity in this part of our City. From 1990 to 2000, property tax collections actually declined by 20% in the Javits Center area. It's time for a new approach to the development of the far west side that includes extending the #7 line accompanied by new parks and creative rezoning to unlock the potential of the area.

New York has more than 500 miles of shoreline, yet much of our waterfront is inaccessible and neglected. We must bring new life to the waterfront, from the North Shore of Staten Island to the underused waterfront of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal. Now is the time for Albany to pass realistic brownfield legislation that will allow old industrial waterfront sites - that will allow old waterfront sites to be converted into housing, parks and other developments.

The AFL-CIO's pension fund's recent $750 million investment in New York housing construction is just a start. But it shows what can be done when we all work together.

We must also develop a strategy to make sure that Governor's Island is returned to our City with new educational activities that are economically feasible and environmentally sound.

And today, I want to announce that we will complete a multi-use recreational path around the entire edge of Manhattan. The success of the Hudson River Park demonstrates the need to make our entire waterfront accessible to walkers and cyclists.

The September 11th attack highlighted our links with the rest of the metropolitan region. We will establish a revitalized relationship with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. We must work together on several critical issues: improvements on the Brooklyn waterfront, assuring new investment in our airports in Queens, and new infrastructure in Lower Manhattan.

Our Economic Development Corporation will be reorganized with a new "client-centered" approach to retain and attract companies. At the same time, we will reinvigorate the Department of Business Services so that it can focus on small organizations. In these tough times, we must strengthen Business Improvement Districts and local development economic development corporations throughout the City.

And sixth there are the things that make New York, New York. I am especially pleased to support the planned renovation of Randall's Island, which will include an entertainment center along with new and improved athletic facilities. The planned improvements at Randall's Island will create 350 summer jobs for youth and help attract additional commercial life to the three surrounding boroughs.

New York City will also compete aggressively for the 2012 Olympics. The Olympics provide a unique opportunity to reinforce New York's role as the premier world city, to build new athletic facilities in all five boroughs, and to link our dynamic immigrant neighborhoods to the world community of nations.

As you all know, New York's economy is driven by ideas and information. Our cultural institutions play a critical role in creating a climate that fosters creativity and innovation. I have asked Deputy Mayor Patti Harris to harness the strengths of our business community to the needs of our cultural sector. The arts can and must play a pivotal role in strengthening our City's spirit, our economy, and our quality of life.

The arts are going to be increasingly important to our City as a whole. That's why I am so pleased to see that organizations such as the Andrew Mellon, Warhol, Ford and McArthur Foundations and others in the non-profit sector have stepped forward to aid museums, cultural organizations, and libraries weakened by the September 11th attack or supporting our much needed social services.

In May, we will host the first annual Tribeca Film Festival. By bringing world-class events - thank you - by bringing world class events to Tribeca, everyone will see the cultural vitality and strength of our City. The new festival will attract filmmakers from all over the world and showcase world premier and independent films.

New York City's cultural life is energized by the diversity of ethnic and racial groups in this City. I am enthusiastically supporting the new Bronx Borough Center Library that will include a Latino and Puerto Rican Cultural Center. The new Bronx library will be an educational, technological, and cultural center for all Bronx residents. By harnessing support from the private sector, the state, and the City Council, the new Bronx library proves that it is possible to be bold and move ahead, even in these hard times.

And while we must tighten our belts, that does not mean that there will be a lack of progress. We must close a $4 billion budget gap in each of the next years, each of the next three years - In a $42 billion budget that has only $14 billion that is not already committed by law, court order or contract. Four out of fourteen, not four out of forty-two. To do this, we must work together. We must campaign for "openness in government," fight for mayoral control of the school system, and understand that fiscal prudence today will insure economic prosperity in coming years.

We have faith in our City and its people. And the people have put us here because they have faith in us. Together we will tackle these problems. We must respond now as New Yorkers have always responded to challenges.

WE MUST AIM HIGH.
WE MUST SUCCEED.
WE WERE ELECTED TO DO NO LESS.
TOGETHER, LET US PROVE THE VOTERS WERE RIGHT.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.