State of the City 2013

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SOTC 2013

 

Good evening Mr. Council President and members of the City Council, City Court Judges, our Superintendent of Schools and Members of the Board of Education, State and County representatives, and fellow Yonkers residents. 

I also want to thank News12 and viewers watching live from home this evening. For the first time in Yonkers’ history, we are bringing the State of the City to you live on City Hall Channel 78, and on your computer or smartphone by visiting the city’s website. 

In order to talk about the State of the City it helps to have a sense of the City. A perspective on what it is, how it lives, how it changes over time, the effect we have on it, and the effect it has on us. 

One perspective is to go down to the City Pier on the Riverfront and look north. From there you can see the Tappan Zee Bridge, which represents everything that we call suburban. 

If you stand at the same spot and turn south, you can just as clearly see the George Washington Bridge, the gateway to New York City. 

Look behind you and you’ll see new luxury high rises that are popular with young people and professionals that are coming to live here. 

But if you could see beyond the towers, past Getty Square, there lie the many modest neighborhoods and bustling small business districts like Mclean Avenue and South Broadway that have served generations of residents and visitors. 

Finally, if you let your mind drift northeast, to Ridge Hill, you would see high end shops, cutting edge restaurants, and regional entertainment venues. 

From standing in this one spot it becomes pretty clear that Yonkers is a unique place. There’s no single description that fits it. 

Just as our city is complex, so are the problems that face us. The job of this administration is to improve the ways we deal with them, to adopt a new and more effective approach. During the past year that’s exactly what we have done. 

We’ve taken a new approach to our finances, passing the first bipartisan budget in more than a decade. Working together, Democrats and Republicans closed an $89.3 million budget gap without raising income taxes, without dramatic cuts to services and without breaking the property tax cap. 

We’ve taken a new approach to public safety. During 2012, major crimes in Yonkers dropped by 13 percent. We are one of the safest cities in America, with crime rates lower than other cities of our size in New York State. We’ve come so far, in fact, that now other municipalities across the state are using the Yonkers Police Department as a model and a resource to help in their fight to reduce crime. 

We’ve taken a new approach to development and investment. A year ago the city’s development plans were stalled. Big projects were on the drawing board, but going no further. 

We sat down with developers and asked, what do you need to make your project work? Do you need faster turn-around time from city planners? We’ll provide that. Do you need help with state incentives? We’ll work with you.

As a result we’re turning plans into ground breakings. 

We’re turning empty buildings into new businesses and homes, and we’re making Yonkers the epicenter of new investment and construction in the Hudson Valley region. 

I want to specifically thank Governor Cuomo and members of our State Delegation for infusing Yonkers with $13 million in new development investment dollars over the last year alone. Governor Cuomo has shown himself to be a partner with Yonkers and is committed to revitalizing New York’s vital city centers. 

We’ve taken a new approach to education. I believe the partnership between City Hall and the Board of Education is closer than it has been in years. We may not agree on everything, but we always agree on one thing: That we need to keep the progress in our schools going and provide the young people of this City with the education they deserve. 

We’ve taken a new approach to old problems, and we’re seeing results. In fact, after downgrading Yonkers credit rating back in 2011, Moody’s has now upgraded Yonkers rating back to stable. Standard and Poor’s has also reaffirmed Yonkers to have a stable fiscal outlook. Stable is good, but positive is even better, and that’s where we want to take our City. 

So today I am proud to announce that the state of our city is getting stronger and our future is bright.

Let’s talk about the specifics of what we are doing to make Yonkers a better place for all of us. 

We were successful in closing last year’s $89 million budget gap. But we also needed a long term plan to address the structural financial problems that got us here in the first place. 

So we convened an independent Commission on Fiscal Inquiry to take an honest look at our city’s finances. What these independent experts confirmed was just what we suspected: That for years the City used one shots and gimmicks to paper over the budget shortfalls. 

In fact from 2004 until 2012 Yonkers used more than $500 million in budget gimmicks. In other words we spent a half billion dollars of tomorrow’s money to pay for yesterday’s lunch. The Commission also found last year that Yonkers faced a $465 million shortfall over the next four years, and that gimmicks won’t continue to work. 

What’s been prescribed is a long-term treatment to Restore Yonkers’ fiscal health. 

The Commission said we must stop the constant erosion of the tax base; We must work with our unions to improve productivity and control labor costs; We need to establish a long term budget plan and stick to it - One that also includes capital needs; We need stronger budgeting, accounting, and staffing systems in City Hall; We need to improve coordination between the City, which allocates education dollars, and the Board of Education, which spends them; 

And we need to find ways to save dollars by consolidating services.

Let’s start with rebuilding the tax base. 

The financial health of Yonkers shouldn’t depend on how much we can cut services to save money, or how much we can raise taxes to get more money. These are both bad choices. We can never cut or tax our way to prosperity. We must grow our way to a more prosperous future. 

So we are re-starting the economic engine, igniting development projects that will mean new stores and businesses, new jobs and new homes, and new revenue. It will also mean taking parts of our City that were deteriorating and turning them into places people want to visit. From stalled downtown and waterfront plans to deserted properties that have stood as eyesores for years, we have launched a renewed effort to restore and rebuild Yonkers that continues with realizing the potential of our historic jewels that helped build our city once before. 

Let’s start with the Glenwood Power Plant. 

Constructed in 1904 as part of the electrification of the rail lines, the power plant helped transform the region’s economy, but since it closed in 1960, Glenwood has become known for its flooded basement, graffiti, crumbling staircases and walls which have been reduced to rubble. A hotspot for criminal activity, its decay is so famous that Glenwood had been dubbed “The Gates of Hell.” 

Now, the Glenwood power plant is about to become one of the most inventive and dynamic redevelopment plans in the region. 

Take a look. 

I have called this project transformative, and it surely is. With clean-up of the site already under way, Glenwood will once again stand as a regional icon and redefine our industrial waterfront while preserving its historic integrity. 

The vision for Glenwood includes an exhibition hall that will bring people and businesses from around the world to events and conferences here in Yonkers. Realizing our ideal location along the Hudson, the plan includes a new marina, as well as restaurants, a hotel, and better parks and sports fields for our youth. 

It will provide thousands of jobs and bring in millions of dollars each year. It’s the biggest development happening in the Hudson Valley, and one of the biggest in the state; and it’s taking place right here in Yonkers. 

Just north and east of Glenwood, plans are being developed for the restoration of the former Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research. 

This historic property dates back to 1924, when William Boyce Thompson, a wealthy investor and resident who lived just across the street at Alder Manor, pursued an effort to improve the world’s food supply and promote conservation. Nearly 40 years since closing, the building is now another victim of neglect and an eyesore in the heart of a growing corporate center. 

This is the Boyce Thompson site of tomorrow. 

I’m pleased to announce that a developer has been selected for the project and plans are now being developed to transform what is now a home to graffiti and vandalism, into a new hotel with retail and public gardens for residents and visitors to enjoy. 

South of the Boyce Thompson site, we have also restarted development of the Downtown Waterfront district. While Yonkers waterfront has seen a significant transformation, the recent economic recession has stalled plans for further growth. Now it’s back in high gear. 

Teutonia Hall, built in 1892 as a German singing hall, once stood as a symbol of its time. Today, the building is symbolic of many vacant structures that have been weathered by years of neglect, but it’s another example of a historic Yonkers jewel that will be a proud feature of our city once again. 

This project is part of the continued revitalization of Downtown Yonkers. The plan includes preserving the building’s historic façade while cleaning up the site, which has long been contaminated, and building a new 25 story residential tower. 

Not far behind Teutonia is the new Collins development. The new project will add to the growing waterfront neighborhood, resulting in 220 new units and over 100 construction jobs. 

Just around the corner, the nationally recognized and awarded Saw Mill River Daylighting project will continue into the second phase, extending the river and park between Getty Square and Nepperhan Avenue. Meanwhile, new restaurants and businesses will line the Saw Mill River area, adding to the vibrancy of Downtown Yonkers. 

If you head north along the riverfront, our renowned Hudson River Museum will complete a new amphitheater and an upgrade of the Andrus Planetarium by the end of this year. 

It’s been more than 25 years since we installed what was then a state-of-the art projector. Since then, there have been tremendous jumps in science and technology. Using the complete NASA Data Set we will be able to see the entire universe in three dimensions. Schools from across the area will be able to visit and bring students anywhere in that universe at any time from the scale of a city to the scale of 13 billion light years. If you look closely you may even catch a glimpse of what we hope will be the “Lesnick Discovery Space Shuttle.” 

Further east, at Ridge Hill, the new Yonkers Legoland will open in just a few days. This will be another regional attraction that will bring families from throughout the metropolitan area for an experience that you just can’t get anywhere else in the Northeast. 

Just south along the 87 Corridor, Empire City’s success continues to spark further growth, nearly completing a $40 million expansion without any public investment. The expansion includes two new restaurants, hundreds of new gaming machines and will bring new jobs to our city. In fact, this past Friday, Yonkers teamed up with Empire City in hosting a job fair offering 100 new positions. 

It is important to also recognize what the future may hold for Empire City and Yonkers if New York State legalizes full casino gaming. Empire City has already signaled they are ready to expand once again, creating more jobs and contributing more dollars for education as they construct a hotel and conference center facilities. 

A full casino in Yonkers would be a game-changer for our city, and the region. On the other hand, if the state allows for full casinos upstate, and not in Yonkers, our city will lose revenue, lose jobs, and it will ultimately threaten the economic viability of Empire City Casino. 

So I repeat my message to state legislative leaders: If New York is to have full casino gaming, then Yonkers must be included. 

As we rebuild Yonkers, we are also redefining the city’s image and gaining the interest of corporations, industries and the arts. That means good, high-paying jobs and investment in our local economy. 

Just recently, IAC, one of the nation’s cutting edge internet corporations that includes brands like Match.com, Ask.com and OKCupid, recently decided to locate its new offices in the iPark complex. The company will bring 180 new tech jobs to Yonkers at an average salary of $112,000. That’s more people shopping at our stores, dining at our restaurants and living in our city. That is the exact kind of investment we are working to continue to attract to our growing Downtown district. 

Meanwhile, Y enterprise – our small business incubator, which was practically dormant since it opened two years ago – finally has new tenants, thanks to the hard work of our new Planning and Development team. It’s another positive sign of the good things happening in Yonkers. 

We’re also gaining new attention from Hollywood and New York film productions that have come knocking at our door. Yonkers re-launched a new film office and website, filmyonkers.com, specifically to serve as a one-stop shop for film production. Expediting the application process and eliminating fees, we’ve seen a spike in production across the board with over three times the number of production days in 2012 than the year before. That includes several large feature films and television shows, including A Winter’s Tale, Law & Order SVU, The Following and Elementary. 

At this moment, a new CBS TV show is wrapping up its shoot at City Hall while HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is preparing for a shoot in Yonkers next week. After going dark for years, Yonkers is once again a premier city for film production in New York. 

As Yonkers continues to grow, we are not forgetting that its success must provide for all residents. 

We are a diverse city, not just ethnically but economically. That means we must provide good and decent housing for residents of all incomes. During the past year, we’ve undertaken nine housing initiatives that will provide more than one thousand new residential units, over three hundred of which include quality, affordable housing. These projects will also create over one thousand construction jobs and over three hundred permanent positions. 

It is important that everyone in Yonkers benefits from this wave of new investment. Consequently, I signed an Executive Order requiring that minority and women-owned businesses be given greater opportunity to compete for the many construction and services contracts that result from any project that receives government financial incentives. 

Let’s talk about honest and effective budgeting. It’s time to put away the band aids, cut back on the municipal credit card, and rely on the same rules that apply to our own households. 

We started by implementing a four year financial plan. Now we know how decisions we make this year will affect us next year, and the year after that. We continued by providing funding for the first phase of the Fair Property Tax Act that when complete will save taxpayers $10 million annually. We instituted a vacancy review board to control hiring costs, eliminated wasteful spending on luxury items like take-home city cars for employees and zeroed in on excessive overtime costs. Perhaps most important of all, we stopped the year after year cuts to education that were short changing the young people of this city. 

One of the things our long term planning showed us was that Yonkers wasn’t keeping up with the need to maintain city streets. They say there is no Republican or Democratic way to fix a pothole, and we have plenty of potholes to fix. So I want to thank the members of the City Council on both sides of the aisle that joined with me this year to more than double our investment in resurfacing City streets, from $2 million to $4.6 million. That money will help pave the way for better streets. 

Responsible budgeting means passing a budget on-time. We can do that this year, and with continued support from councilmembers of both political parties. We can send a message that whatever our political points of view, and whatever partisan differences we have, we are able to get together and agree on the fundamentals of an honest and balanced budget. 

This is essential if we are going to make fiscal crises a thing of the past and fiscal stability the way of the future. I want to thank our City Council partners for their cooperation and honesty in budgeting. 

This leads us to better ways of running government. I want to tell you a story that illustrates the issue. 

Every time I go by the City Jail near the waterfront on Alexander Street, I think that is exactly the wrong place for a jail. As I said earlier, the waterfront should be the jewel in the City’s crown, the best place to shop or live, or walk in a riverfront park. Our best real estate is not the place for a jail. We should build a new jail somewhere else and sell the old one to developers so we can bring in new revenue and improve the tax base. 

As it turns out, the City already built a new jail 20 years ago in the Cacace Center that houses the police department and courts. The only problem is they were using it to store furniture and papers rather than prisoners. For years we were keeping old chairs and boxes of files behind bars. Now their sentence is up. 

It’s time to start using that perfectly good jail for its intended purpose – to house prisoners. It’s time to sell the old jail along our waterfront to a developer who will re-utilize the property for its rightful purpose – to attract people to our downtown restaurants, shops and offices. There already seems to be a lot of interest. 

Cutting the red tape that was mysteriously put across the jail for years at the Cacace Center is an example of how we are applying good, common sense to how we run city government. 

Common sense would also suggest Yonkers have an inventory system, yet we found there really wasn’t one. That led to wasteful mistakes. 

For example in order to prepare for Hurricane Sandy our police department bought extra generators. So did the Fire Department. Later, when the parks department needed extra generators for an event they went out and bought more, never realizing that they could have borrowed them from police and fire. 

When I asked why, the answer I got was - that’s how it’s always been done. Well not anymore. It’s time we develop a system to keep track of all city assets. 

One of the first things we’ve already turned up is that we still have more vehicles than we need. As a result we will be auctioning off another 50 of them in the spring. 

Last year I told you there were about 400 properties in Yonkers whose owners simply stopped paying taxes on them. So what does that mean for our taxpayers? It means that every tax dollar not paid by a delinquent property owner is another dollar other taxpayers have to pick up. 

We later discovered that over the years the City had also distributed millions of dollars in commercial and residential loans that developers were not repaying. No effort was being made to recover the people’s money from these delinquent properties. That has now changed. 

We have started court action against 21 property owners who have failed to pay more than $10 million in taxes. That’s almost a half million dollars for each property. We have also started ten lawsuits to recover unpaid commercial loans of $4 million. This should have happened years ago. 

At a time when we need every dollar to provide schoolbooks for our children, or to have police and firefighters on our streets, we cannot afford to ignore tens of millions of dollars that are rightfully owed to the people of this city. 

We are also applying common sense solutions in our effort to share services with state and local governments. 

The City of Yonkers and Westchester County have started combining their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Human Rights and GIS services. This might not sound that exciting, except that we are saving half million dollars a year. To me, that’s exciting. 

Let’s look at what we spend on energy, because cutting energy use saves dollars and is also good for the environment. 

There is no arguing that Climate change is real. We know the devastation that it has and will continue to cause right here in New York if we don’t act. We are all responsible for it and now we must be part of the solution. 

So I am proud to announce that we have moved forward with an energy and sustainability program that will save more than $2 million annually, but most importantly, reduce our carbon footprint by a remarkable ten percent. 

We are about to replace 12,000 street lights with new energy-efficient LED lamps. The new lights will be brighter, and they will save $12 million over the next ten years. This project also includes lighting the City Hall clock tower which will not only save dollars, but bring a new colorful look to the night sky. 

Utilizing a new alternative energy pilot program, the city will add a propane refueling station and convert 20 fleet vehicles to propane power, reducing fuel costs, maintenance costs and our carbon footprint. 

It’s not just the city that is realizing the benefits of green energy. This year one of the largest privately funded rooftop solar panel arrays in the state was installed at I-Park. It will produce enough power to equal the electricity used by 120 homes. 

To further reduce costs and improve services it’s time to advance technology in Yonkers, which was ignored for too many years. Let me give you an example: water bills. 

I can’t tell you how many complaints I get about water bills that are wrong, are late, or don’t come at all. 

We’ve all heard the horror stories about someone who goes to sell their house, only to discover at the closing that they owe thousands of dollars in water bills. It shouldn’t be hard for the city to read your meter and send you a bill in a timely fashion. 

So we are going to install new water meters citywide starting in the coming year. The meters will be high tech, able to be read electronically rather than having a meter reader come into your home, and they will be accurate. 

The same goes with tax bills. We’re going to install a modern and efficient tax collection system in City Hall. Finally, you’ll be able to take care of your obligations online. 

There are other ways in which we are now improving technology. 

Today, City Hall isn’t just a physical address. It’s a web address, it’s Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Constant Contact, Instagram, Tumbler and soon a new website that will offer easier access to information for residents and visitors. 

We are using this new technology to bring you better and faster information about city services and events, and to let you tell us your concerns and express your needs. 

We found our electronic communications to be a tremendous resource during Hurricane Sandy and other emergency situations. Even if you didn’t have power, as long as you had a smartphone with internet we were able to provide you critical information. 

Advances in social media are long overdue for Yonkers, as are upgrades to the city’s technological infrastructure. 

Technology is supposed to link the various parts of city government together, just as the brain links the body. It is supposed to link us with the public, but it hasn’t been doing its job. So our job is to bring City Hall’s technology into the 21st century. It will allow us to perform more efficiently and effectively. 

Please join me in welcoming Bob Cacace, our new Director of Technology who will bring Yonkers up to speed. 

This year we put a strong focus on public safety. 

Last year, we set an ambitious goal to make Yonkers – already considered one of the safest cities for its size in America – even safer. We hired new classes of police officers and firefighters, and thanks to the tireless work of our emergency services personnel, we are meeting that goal. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing the accomplishments of Police Commissioner Charles Gardner, Fire Commissioner Robert Sweeney and the men and women of the Yonkers Police and Fire Department. 

I was proud to join Commissioner Gardner just a few months ago to announce that major crimes in Yonkers dropped 13 percent in 2012 – a seven year low. This drop in crime didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t by accident. We have taken a proactive, multi-faceted approach to tackling crime, especially gun violence. 

Our Gun Tips Hotline has been a great success, effectively taking illegal handguns off the streets. Each of those guns could otherwise have been used in a shooting or murder. 

Last summer, in a series of undercover gun buy operations, YPD made headlines by seizing 46 firearms, including nearly a dozen assault rifles. 

The anti-gun violence program, Operation SNUG – which is guns spelled backwards – has been a great success by using community mentors to keep young people away from violence and crime. From 2010 to 2012, citywide shootings dropped from 34 to just 8, and Operation SNUG has been critical to our success. 

Please join me in recognizing the Yonkers’ SNUG members who made this program a true success. 

Our effort to enhance public safety also includes a focus on quality of life issues. We announced a Neighborhood Protection Partnership with our Police, Fire, DPW, Parks, Housing & Buildings and community organizations to address specific quality of life issues in each neighborhood. The program included the launch of the YPD Mobile Command Center, community clean-up efforts, camera installations, lighting improvements and other quality of life efforts. 

Meanwhile, our Green Neighborhoods Initiative consisting of several programs including Adopt-A-Mile and the Clean Streets program has enabled residents, businesses and organizations to take pride in Yonkers by helping keep our city clean and green. 

Under the leadership of DPW Commissioner Tom Meier, we are working to send a clear message that Yonkers will not tolerate those who litter or dump garbage in our city, and neither should you. We must all do our part. 

To help in that effort, we have established a dumping hotline, 377-DUMP, for any resident to report illegal dumping of garbage in our city. We are even offering a reward for successful reporting. So if you see something, it pays to say something. 

Our quality of life improvements also extend to our pets in need of a home. After nearly 50 years, this summer Yonkers will open a new animal shelter. The new Yonkers animal shelter will be nearly twice as big as the old one. It will feature an expanded kennel area with room for fifty percent more animals, will have modern medical and exercise areas, and contain inviting public spaces that will showcase the pets for adoption. 

Now let’s talk about an issue of greatest importance to our future – education. 

Over the last several years Yonkers schools have cut essential educational and extracurricular programs because of budget cuts. This year we reversed the trend of cutting education. 

For the first time in recent years Superintendent Pierorazio and the Board of Education actually restored some key service personnel, including Guidance Counselors and Psychologists. 

Our graduation rate of 72 percent is among the highest of the state’s largest cities but we know it’s not high enough. Yonkers High School is the highest rated in Westchester County and ranked as the 24th best high school in the nation. PEARLS Hawthorne is also one of the highest rated grammar schools in the country. 

In fact, the PEARLS Science Olympiad team is the first-ever Yonkers public school to qualify for the state championships. I ask you to join me in recognizing the PEARLS Science team, and wishing them good luck next month in Syracuse. 

We want all of our schools to be among the highest rated. It is time that the Yonkers students had the same opportunities as others. This is not a privilege, this is not negotiable, this is their right, and it’s our responsibility to assure Yonkers students receive the full commitment of their government. 

An example is full day pre-kindergarten. We know how important early education is. Our President and Governor Cuomo have both shown leadership in proposing new investment in full-day pre-k. 

The simple fact is that children who receive early education are better prepared to achieve academic success and are 30 percent more likely to graduate from high school. Yet our kids aren’t treated fairly when it comes to funding pre-kindergarten. 

For our half day Pre K program, the state provides Yonkers $2,700 per student – that’s the lowest reimbursement rate of our state’s largest cities. Why should that be? 

Tonight I commit to our parents and our children that working with Superintendent Pierorazio, BOE, City Council and our State Delegation, we will restore full-day Pre-K this year. 

Let’s not stop there. Let’s continue rebuilding and restoring our educational system to meet the needs of our growing student population. That includes meeting the needs of our English language learners. 

Imagine if your child, who only speaks English, went to a Spanish speaking school and was expected to perform on an equal level. Turn that around, and what you have is the situation facing about one of every five Yonkers students who are English Language Learners. That’s the highest percentage among the Big 5 school districts.

Let's address this to assure every student has an equal chance at success. 

Our City spends half a billion dollars on education each year, and our Education Redesign Team continues working to find ways to spend those dollars as efficiently as possible. 

While the City funds the Board of Education, the City government does not decide how the Board of Education spends those dollars. So it is essential that the Board of Education and the City strengthen their partnership and share services where possible so we can spend dollars where they are most needed. 

While the City shouldn’t get involved in the academic functions of the district, the City should and will pursue a more active role in administrative operations to assure taxpayer dollars are accounted for and cuts to programs are avoided. 

Finally, let’s continue our effort to bring a State University of New York campus to Yonkers. 

As the fourth largest city in New York State and largest in the county, strategically located along the Hudson River and minutes from Manhattan, Yonkers is a logical choice for a SUNY campus. 

Working with Chancellor Zimpher, we are proposing a dynamic SUNY curriculum and facilities plan to serve areas of study including science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nursing, medicine and special education. 

The establishment of a SUNY Yonkers would not only provide new opportunity for the large student population in the metropolitan area, it would provide a tremendous boost to our economy. 

As our youth head to college, we want to make sure they have opportunity to live and work in Yonkers when they graduate. 

So we established a Youth Advisory Board to give our young people a voice at City Hall and promote a more youth friendly city. The board consists of seven members between the ages of 16 and 21 who will offer ideas and recommendations for effective policies, programs and projects that further youth development and opportunity. 

We received great response with many qualified applicants, all with diverse backgrounds and a different perspective on how we can better our city. Today I am proud to present to you for the first time, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board. Please stand and be recognized. 

Let’s talk about Pride in Yonkers. 

You don’t have to look far to find reasons to be proud of Yonkers, its people, and its future. 

We take pride in Yonkers, a city with great history and an even greater future. 

We take pride in our businesses – those that have been part of Yonkers business community for generations, and those new to the city that see the tremendous opportunity to thrive in Yonkers for generations to come. 

Over the last year we’ve put our oversized scissor to work, cutting 44 ribbons across the city. That’s dozens of new businesses investing in our city, creating new jobs and bringing new revenue to support our schools and quality of life services. I am proud to welcome them to Yonkers and happy to have many of those business owners here with us tonight. 

We take pride in the diversity of our city. From the Dutch settlers who first landed on our shores, to the many immigrants from across the world who have followed, we recognize that the diversity of our people is our greatest strength. 

We take pride in our public workforce. They are on the front lines protecting our quality of life. 

Whether you have a public safety emergency, need a pothole fixed or your trash picked up, or just have a question about city programs, our employees will give you the best service you can find. 

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize a few of our Public Works employees that have gone above and beyond both as employees of our city and as good citizens. 

In December, while working along the Bronx River Parkway, seven DPW workers were suddenly called to the rescue of two drivers whose vehicles careened off the Parkway into the Bronx River. These brave men immediately sprang into action, jumping into the river, pulling the victims from their vehicles and helping bring them to safety along with members of the Yonkers Police and Fire departments. 

Please join me in recognizing Ronnie DeFrancis, Dominick DeVita, Joseph DeVita, Paul Colapietro, Christopher Nigro, Chris Gamby and Anthony Tellone of our Yonkers Department of Public Works. 

It’s moments like this when the true spirit of our city is on display 

We also take pride in our heroes who protect our safety here at home and our freedom overseas. Those like Captain Matthew Gulliver of our US Army National Guard. 

Captain Gulliver has proudly served our country for 17 years and just last Monday, returned back home to Yonkers from his deployment in Afghanistan. He now continues to serve as a member of the 101st Battalion and is back on duty working with our Yonkers Police Department Community Affairs Division. 

I could not be more honored to have him here with us tonight. Let’s stand and recognize one of Yonkers’ finest, Captain Matthew Gulliver, and all our honored Veterans. 

As I go around the State of New York it is clear that people are paying attention to what is happening in Yonkers. 

We are getting the attention of investors who are looking for the right place to enjoy success. We are getting the attention of young people and those starting out who want a vibrant community, who love the waterfront, and who believe in a future here. We are getting the attention of families who want to live in a City that is one of the safest in the nation. 

I am particularly proud to live in Yonkers, and I hope you are too. There was a time, perhaps, when it was harder to be proud about Yonkers. There were controversies about housing. There was a control board. There seemed to be a never ending sense of crisis. 

Now people see Yonkers in a new way. We’re restoring its greatness and rebuilding its future. 

Yonkers is where you come to shop, eat and go to the movies. 

Yonkers is where you come to visit a casino that is bigger than any in Atlantic City. 

Yonkers is where you can live in a waterfront high rise here in the Hudson Valley, just minutes from Manhattan. 

Yonkers is where there is more parkland, golf courses, and recreational facilities than anywhere else in Westchester. 

Yonkers is home to some of the top schools in the nation, and one of the few city school districts that is actually growing and attracting new families. 

But most important, Yonkers is our home. You are here because you love this city. You are proud of this city. You are working to make a better life for yourself, your families, and your neighbors. Like me, you have faith in this city’s ability to overcome any obstacle put in its way and you know we always come out on top. 

It’s that strength that makes me proud to be from Yonkers, NY and honored to serve as your Mayor. 

Let’s build on our great history to create a better future. Let’s continue to redefine Yonkers as the best place to live, work and raise a family. Let’s do it together. 

Thank you and good night.