On this beautiful January day, I am proud to stand before hundreds of friends, family and supporters and be sworn in as the Mayor of the great city of Yonkers. It is a city with a destiny yet to be fulfilled. It’s our city and our home. Its beauty… diversity… and potential is matched by no other place. It’s time we tap into that… as a source of pride. Together, we begin a new day and a new direction.
As someone who was raised just a couple of blocks from City Hall, just like my parents. My father, a U.S. Marine, went on to represent southwest Yonkers as a county legislator and our county clerk. He and my mother Josephine raised all 16 of us there. For generations now, my family has been proud to call Yonkers our home. It was in 1906 that my grandfather arrived in Yonkers from Italy with very little and started a small business from scratch. He would push a cart of over two thousand pounds of ice up and down these streets every day. It was a humble beginning, but a proud one.
We know that we live in a city with a great future, a vibrant present and a storied past.
This is the place that was born on development and industry. The first elevator was built here in the same factory that helped build tanks during the war. The Alexander Smith Carpet Factory developed huge mills and exported their wares. It was a factory that later made tents for the war. The first golf course was built here and one of the first shopping centers in America- Cross County. Millions have come through Empire City from its start as a harness racetrack to the vibrant entertainment venue that is today. We look at our hospitals, corporate parks, thousands of small businesses, neighborhood stores, and restaurants.
New developments like Ridge Hill Shopping Village. And the daylighting of the Saw Mill River- which laid under concrete for more than a century. More work is to come. A factory closed for years will now open - the old Stewart Stamping has been sold in what is the largest industrial sale of the year in Westchester. We welcome this manufacturing company. The perceptions of the past are changing, from a city looked upon in a negative light, to one that is becoming a destination for businesses and families.
There are also challenges, because times are tough everywhere right now and Yonkers is no exception. Already this year’s budget is running at a deficit and we face a budget gap next year that could be as high as a hundred million dollars. This government is going to have to pull together and learn to make do with less. If we do that now, then we will become stronger and more prosperous in the future. We need to have a government that is accountable and simply fits what our taxpayers can afford.
So what do we do?
We will start by treating every dollar as if it belongs to the people. Because it does. And before we spend every dollar, we will ask … is this a dollar well spent?
We are going to start with all those dollars spent on cars and gas for high level city workers. It’s just wrong when the working people are barely getting by, for so many workers to drive home in city cars and fill up their tanks at a city gas pump. Starting immediately we are going to eliminate every vehicle we possibly can. We are going to have an auction and sell them off. You’re all invited to attend the auction. Who knows, maybe you might get a real deal.
I know that we’re not going to solve our financial problems just by auctioning off cars. But what it will do is send a message that this government is serious about cutting expenses. It will send a message to every person in city government that cutting costs is something that is expected of everyone, every day.
We will all make sacrifices. We have the greatest workforce in America. Those who protect us, those who keep our city clean, those who manage our city, those who educate our youth, and those who provide quality of life services. Together with mutual respect and a combined commitment, we will solve our city’s ills and all be part of the solution.
During the campaign, no matter where I went whether it was in my own neighborhood of Colonial Heights, down in Ludlow or Lincoln Park, or up in Runyon Heights or Woodstock Manor, I heard a consistent message. That message was that education should be the top priority, and it will be. I believe every child should be given every chance to succeed. The taxpayers of Yonkers invest a half a billion dollars a year in education. There should be no reason that they should not get the best education. Our goal is make sure our children have the tools they need to be well rounded… to not only have the best teachers, but also after-school programs, transportation, athletics and the arts.
And that is why I will lead the charge to put in place an education redesign team to reform education. The new deputy mayor, Sue Gerry will help institute one of our first tasks as we transform Yonkers.
Today is not just the start of a new year or a new government. It is the start of a new era
The building behind me is a testament to the will and dedication of decades past. There is a strong foundation here, one which has survived the test of time.
Those who first built City Hall had great hope and belief in the city’s future.
If I could ask one thing of you today, it is to never stop believing in our city.
Believe that our neighborhoods can be great.
Believe that our schools will be exceptional.
Believe that our streets will be safe.
Believe that our government can be fiscally strong. And responsive.
Believe that we can create good paying jobs.
And never stop believing that Yonkers’ greatest days are yet to come.
Thank you and Happy New Year!