by Peter Vallone
The horror of September 11th has affected us all. And for many, it has
altered our course. For the first eight months of this year, I competed
vigorously to win the office of Mayor. I campaigned on my experience --
working alongside the last three mayors. And I campaigned on my ideals. I
put forth my plans for education, for health care, for economic development,
for housing and policing. I challenged my fellow candidates in debate.
That competition ceased at 8:48 A.M. on September 11. Since that time, I
have been doing my job, which is to govern. I've been working closely with
the Mayor and the City Council and emergency officials, striving to put the
city we love on the road to reconstruction and renewal.
Of the other candidates for mayor, I wish to say this: I know each of them
personally and I know they are all deeply caring and committed New Yorkers.
I value their service to the city. And I am honored to have participated
with them in this year's campaign. I have learned something from each of
them. And I hope I may have contributed something of value to them, as
In the aftermath of the attack I said that if the terrorists had hopes of
knocking us out, they had picked the wrong city. At the time, I did not
know just how right that was.
Thousands of New Yorkers have committed extraordinary acts of courage and
compassion throughout this ordeal. Indeed, such acts by individual New
Yorkers are too numerous to catalogue. Most will remain forever anonymous.
But in gestures large and small, the strength and spirit of New York has shed
light through the darkness. Common New Yorkers have shown uncommon valor:
A downtown hardware store owner stayed open to provide phone calls and
breathing masks to people escaping the disaster.
Taxi drivers offered free transportation to grieving families.
And so many of our bravest, finest, strongest and best gave their all.
What kind of person runs into a burning tower as it explodes from on high?
New York City firefighters.
New York City cops.
New York City EMS workers.
Everyday New Yorkers concerned about their coworkers and their friends.
Everyday New Yorkers who risked -- and lost -- their lives to help people
they'd never met.
We can never forget the thousands of innocent lives that have been lost.
We will never forget our heroes.
We New Yorkers are known for fast talk and loud opinions. But should anyone
ever question the character of our city, a silent gesture will speak volumes.
We need only point to a place in the sky in downtown Manhattan -- where a
void of terror was filled with courage, honor and grace.
We cannot deny that we have suffered an enormous tragedy. But we must not
allow it to become a debilitating one.
I am a New Yorker born and bred. New York City has been more than my home .
. . it has been my life's work. I can say with confidence that I have never
seen the heart of New York beat with such passion and strength. New Yorkers
from every corner, every color, every culture of the city are joining hands,
building bridges, defying fear. We are hurt. But we are united in our pain.
And in our unity there is an awesome strength.
The city government's response to the crisis has been extraordinary. I
thank Mayor Giuliani for his outstanding leadership. I have been in
constant contact with the Mayor since the early hours of this tragedy and I
have never been more proud of any Mayor. The Mayor, the City government and
all City emergency personnel and agencies have set a new standard for crisis
Let me take this opportunity to report briefly to you on what we have been
In daily briefings with Mayor Giuliani and his team, we have been working to
expedite the emergency efforts downtown. We also have been briefing City
Council members on the effort -- so that they can provide the most up-to-date
information and the most useful and extensive services to the neighborhoods
and citizens they represent.
We have repeatedly toured the disaster site to assess the ongoing needs of
rescue workers and city agencies and to respond to those needs as
comprehensively and efficiently as possible.
We have been visiting the wounded in hospitals . . . and mourning our dead in
places of worship across New York, alongside many of you.
Following consultations with the Mayor and his staff, on Friday I introduced
legislation in the City Council to create a commission to oversee the
reconstruction of downtown Manhattan. The commission would focus the city's
resources and energies into rebuilding downtown. In addition, the bill
provides emergency relocation assistance to businesses and residents.
The Mayor has also asked me to channel 25 million dollars from the Council's
Emerging Industries Fund into loans for small businesses, particularly those
in the city's hard-hit tourist industry. I support the Mayor's request and
I will urge the City Council to support it.
As a result of the state of emergency, the Council has voted to suspend the
deadline on pending land-use decisions in order to ensure the fair and
deliberate consideration of those issues. Citizens and businesses with
land-use proposals before the Council can rest assured that they will receive
appropriate and timely consideration.
And last week I convened an emergency session of the Council. Because City
Hall was still closed, we met at the New York Public Library. To my
knowledge, it was one of the few times the Council has met outside City Hall
since that building was completed in 1812. In last week's emergency
session, the Council raised the debt limit of the City by 2.5 billion
dollars. For twelve years as Speaker, I have overseen the adoption of
balanced budgets every year by the Council. I have worked hard to keep
expenditures in line with revenues. I believe I have been a careful
custodian of your tax dollars. However, our decision last week to raise the
debt limit was the right thing to do. We need to buy fire trucks and police
cars. We need dump trucks and subway stations. We need food for the
hungry, shelters for the cold, care for the sick, comfort for the mourning,
and healing for the lonely and bereft.
In the coming months, we must focus on rebuilding. But we must not lose
sight of other critical priorities. Our city will face economic
difficulties -- potentially severe ones. We must be prepared to shape the
city's budget to meet our most important needs -- without overspending.
There was a time in the early 1990's when Mayor Dinkins and I cut the city
budget by 2 billion dollars. I hope we will not face such a stark choice
again. But we may.
As we move forward, we'll be exploring every option aimed at maximizing city
resources. We will review land use legislation, tax policy and zoning laws.
We will assist displaced businesses and residents. We will consider new
development initiatives and new means of retaining and attracting jobs.
The months ahead will be difficult. Above all, we must maintain our
confidence in our city and in ourselves. We have suffered a great and
irreparable loss. But our spirit is unbowed. And our commitment, pride
and tenacity are greater than ever.
Our city embodies everything that narrow and fearful minds detest: A city
of great art and commerce . . . A city of towering architecture and grand
aspirations . . . A city with the world's most varied and dynamic culture,
with people of every race, religion and color living side by side. . . . A
city of free people sharing common purpose. . . . A city whose citizens love
life. . . A city whose guardians have proven they will enter the gates of
hell to save a stranger.
A city blessed with citizens like that, cannot and will not be defeated.
We will begin again.
We will rebuild buildings;
We will rebuild businesses;
We will rebuild lives.
We will remember that terrible day. And we will honor our dead by building
a city more beautiful, more just, more diverse and more united than any on
earth. Hour by hour, in the midst of unimaginable horrors, New York City
has shown the world the heart of a lion. The day will soon come when the
world hears this proud city roar again.
God bless America. And God bless New York City.