Mayor Bloomberg Speaks at City Council Announcement About Agreement on Willets Point Redevelopment Plan
"I do want to thank the Speaker and the Councilman and the Councilwoman for supporting the City's plan to redevelop Willets Point. "Hiram, thank you for those nice words. The truth of the matter is that we have worked well together over the years. We don't always agree on everything, but people always want to paint these battles as personal battles or, if you're not together on one thing, it means you can't work together on others, and I think this is as good an example as you could ever find. Hiram has been there, I think, on the important things. It's not been easy; we've had to convince him. And that's exactly what you should do. He's asked the right questions and he's given input and he's changed and improved the program. That's democracy. And it really does work very well between the City Council and the Administration. I think that's why this city is better. Neither end of City Hall can take full credit. And both ends deserve a lot of the credit, along with the people out in the communities - the community boards and the people who stand up and carry the ACORN banners and fight for fairness on the steps of City Hall. All of this gets put together and out of it comes some very good things, and this is one of them.
"The Council is set to vote tomorrow. I hope all of the members will express their approval. They have, as a group, been well represented by Hiram and Melinda and Chris. And this really is one of the big, important wins for New York City's economy, generating new jobs now and for years to come.
"I've been spending time going around this City recently. You look at the number of empty stores, you look at people who line up for the few jobs that are available; we have tough times and they probably will get tougher for a while. But I have believed and I still believe that this city has a better hand to play than any other city and it is because, in the end, we come together and we are investing in our future. And that is exactly what this is.
"Willets Point in northeast Queens is perhaps the most heavily polluted area in the city - maybe even the entire region. And we've long believed that it's also one with the most promise. The pollution in the ground keeps leaking into the bays and rivers around this great city. The stuff goes into the air; it's the air that we all breathe. Pollution - if it was nothing else - this would be a good reason to do Willets Point.
"But, the truth of the matter is, there's an awful lot more. We envisioned a dynamic center of life, energy, and economic activity - within touching distance of some of the best transportation links and attractions, including the Mets' new home at Citi Field. And because of the collaboration between our partners in government and the community, we really have a chance to turn that vision into reality.
"Now, I just want to point out that the first time Willets Point was being addressed by government was by somebody named Robert Moses back in 1962."
OFF MICROPHONE: "I wasn't born yet."
"You weren't born yet, Chris was not born yet, Melinda was not born; Claire and I were born."
OFF MICROPHONE: "But you needed us to come around."
"We did need you to come around, actually. No, it was getting rid of Hiram that got it done. Sending him to Albany. Or the baby. I still think the baby was the final key to get everybody to come together. If the baby wanted this, how could anybody say no?
"But seriously, just think about all of the years government knew what had to be done and people couldn't come together. And now there is in the city a spirit of people and government of all parts of government and all people-working together, understanding that we can't have everything we want exactly the way we want it, but democracy says we each get something and push it together and you come up with something that is for the greater good and everybody comes along with that. And if you don't win on this one, you win on the next one. That's exactly the kind of system that we've built, and we should be very proud of it.
"If the Council passes the rezoning, we can begin the process of turning this into New York's first truly 'green' community development with buildings that use the latest energy-efficient technology, and eight acres of parks and open spaces that give New Yorkers new places to play. We think there will be a dynamic mix of retail and entertainment facilities, half-a-million square feet of office space, a new school, a hotel and a convention center - the city's first, incidentally, outside of Manhattan.
"Combined, these developments will create some 18,000 construction jobs, over 5,000 permanent jobs, generate $1.3 billion in direct City tax revenues, and produce an economic impact of at least $25 billion over 30 years.
"The desire to redevelop Willets Point, as I said, began- while it's been going on for decades, the effort began in earnest two years ago, when we began engaging the public on a plan that would finally clean up the area and create new economic activity. From the beginning, our plan has had the strong support of many civic leaders, including Claire Shulman. Claire, you have always been there and thank you. In recent months, our plan has been approved by the local community board, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and the City Planning Commission.
"Christine Quinn, Melinda Katz, and particularly Hiram Montserrat, who represents the district, it goes without saying, without them this would never have gotten done. And the hard work that Montserrat has done over the past seven years really has won him the strong support of his constituents, and that's why he was recently elected to the State Senate, so he can keep serving this city and this state. And we are going to miss you. Just make sure you deliver for us, you know? That's what we care about."
OFF MICROPHONE: "I won't be too far away, Mr. Mayor."
"You will- well you can go up there and you can start out with a legacy that very few legislators have. You've really made an enormous difference in this city and it should bring you great pride. And when you come back and you read in the paper about all the development over the next half a dozen years you can say, 'Hey, I did that.'
"Affordable housing is an important priority for our Administration and for Hiram and the Council; Chris mentioned it. Willets Point includes some 5,500 units of mixed-income housing. Willets Point is going to be a home for those people who built this city and it's also going to be a home for those people who want to come to this city. We want people from all over the world to come here. This is the most wonderful city and it grows because people come here. And we want to make sure that every income level is able to enjoy the great American dream. And this brings us a step closer to creating our goal of having housing for one million extra people by the year 2030.
"We'll also continue to move forward in our efforts to acquire land for the redevelopment, as Hiram mentioned and Chris mentioned. And so far we've struck deals with 13 property owners, and are close to reaching an agreement, we think, with the area's largest landowner. No deal is done until it's done, but I think this goes a long way towards saying to the people who have businesses there and people who work there and people who own land there, this is the right thing for the city, and the City's doing the right thing by helping to make sure that the transition for them is not a death knell but, quite the contrary, can give them a new lease on developing new businesses and having a better deal. And we'll control something over 51% of the 48 acres of private land when this is done.
"Even though we're creating a new community, that doesn't mean we're turning our backs on businesses that currently occupy the area. Far from it. We've launched one of the biggest workforce assistance programs in the city's history. City University has a van out there, I believe. I was at one of the City University schools this morning and we were talking about developing jobs for people and matching skill sets and improving skill sets and we are committed to do that here as well. We're not going to turn our backs on the businesses that occupy these areas. We want them to survive. It's just that we can, by changing things around, really bring net-net more business to this city: more jobs, more housing, more schools.
"Many of the employees at Willets Point will choose, we think, to relocate with their employers. All 1,700 of the workers, however, have access to free education, job training, and job placement programs that LaGuardia Community College is providing.
"And, as part of this effort, the Greater New York Auto Dealers Association, you should know, and the Consortium for Worker Education is developing tailor-made programs, including training in green, hybrid and automobile technology. And last month, we announced that the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council will, for the first time, open its doors to non-members so that Willets Point workers can enroll in training programs for food and beverage services. And, as you know, those are industries that are connected with tourism and that is, in the end, one of the things that really gives New York a great future.
"So let me close by saying, more than ever it's critical we continue making these kinds of important investments in our neighborhoods and in our city as a whole. And just because we are in the midst of an economic downturn and we have to learn to do more with less doesn't mean that we can afford to walk away from our long term obligations.
"Our City made that mistake during the tough times in the '70s and we had- it was a near disastrous effect. And we're simply not going to make that mistake again. We want better for our children. We want them to have economic opportunities and affordable housing and we're going to keep investing in the future. We're not going to walk away from the things that have made this city great. And of all the things we've been working on, our environmental agenda remains as strong as ever. That's the future of this planet for our grandchildren and the air that we breathe is the air that we and our current children are breathing. And we have a responsibility, even in the tough times, to understand just how important that, and our cultural institutions and parks and relations among all of us, is. This is not a time to walk away from those kinds of commitments. This is a time to refocus ourselves and to do even more. And Hiram, you are part of that and I just wanted to say once again, without you and Melinda and Chris it wouldn't have gotten done, but you were really the key guy. And, in the end, I always thought that we could come to an agreement and my confidence in you has not been misplaced. Congratulations. Good luck in Albany."