State of the City 2015 Address

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Good evening Mr. Council President and members of the City Council, City Court Judges, members of the Board of Education, State and County representatives, and fellow Yonkers residents. I also want to thank News 12, FIOS 1 and welcome viewers watching live from home this evening on City Hall TV and yonkersny.gov.

Let’s give the PEARLS Hawthorne Concert Band and Choir another round of applause.

Tonight we’re going to consider the State of the City, which is really an exercise in answering some very basic questions.

What have we accomplished since we gathered here last year? What are our plans for the future?  Did our City get safer? Are we bringing more jobs so people can make a living? Did our schools continue to improve?  Is government running smarter and more efficiently so that we keep taxes down? Are we protecting seniors?  Are we building more housing, especially affordable housing for the average working person?

These are the questions that matter most. These are the things we will talk about tonight.

Let’s start with safety.

Yonkers has long had a reputation as a safe city – one of the safest of its size in the entire nation.  It is becoming even safer. Crime has dropped 30 percent during the past three years. The trend continues this year as crime is down 13 percent since last year.

We ended the year with crime down in every major category and all four precincts. The homicide rate is the lowest in recorded history.

Our police department is continually improving how they use their resources and updating their training.

People often talk about how they remember when police officers walked the beat rather than drive around in cars.  Guess what? We’ve found that sometimes it still makes sense to walk the beat. It’s the police version of boots on the ground. And this year I will propose a City Budget that puts 8 officers in walking posts. 

We will also equip all officers with Tasers. Deadly force is something no police officer ever wants to use. It is always a last resort. Tasers, equipped with cameras and audio, will improve the ability of our police to protect their own lives and the lives of the public.

We have also increased our efforts to promote communication between the police department and the community.  Respect and understanding, on both ends, mean better policing and a better community.

We recently began Stop and Shake, a grassroots plan to emphasize a positive relationship between police and the entire community, especially young men. A handshake or fist bump takes but a second, but speaks volumes in demonstrating unity and respect. 

This great idea came from Yonkers’ own Hector Santiago, who is here with us tonight. We want to thank him and our police leadership for recognizing Stop and Shake’s value and adopting it.

Working with Police Commissioner Gardner, we reinstated the Yonkers Police Explorer Program. It provides a forum for young people with an interest in law enforcement. The Explorers have helped with crowd control, and volunteered at the Yonkers YMCA, with the PBA Christmas Toy Drive and feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving Day.  

Please join me tonight in welcoming these hard-working and inspiring young adults.

Public safety also means getting the best possible response from our first responders.

Fire Departments are rated by the insurance industry as to how effective they are.  This year our classification went from a three to a one, which is the highest you can get. Meaning no other Fire Department in the nation is rated higher than ours in its ability to protect your property and your life.

Our Fire Department is among the first in the nation to use the new LUCAS mechanical CPR device. We now have 15 of them, and they have dramatically improved results in cases of cardiac arrest.

Together with the outstanding paramedics of Empress Ambulance, who continue to win awards of their own, we provide a level of emergency medical response that is first class.

Please join me in thanking all of our First Responders, Yonkers Fire Department, Yonkers Police Department, and Empress Ambulance.

There was a time when Yonkers, like many cities, was a center of manufacturing. The modern elevator was invented and made here. More carpets were woven in Yonkers than anywhere else in the world. Yonkers made, and sold, hundreds of products used around the nation.

Now, we must attract a different kind of business.  Our competition is not only from other countries where labor is cheaper, but other states that want to take our businesses by offering them subsidies to move.

That’s tough competition, but one we cannot afford to lose. It comes down to a simple equation:  More business equals more jobs. More jobs equals a growing tax base that funds our schools and essential city services.

We have a three part strategy to bring business to Yonkers, and it is working.

First, we are getting our message out to investors that Yonkers is the place to be through our Generation Yonkers campaign. 

Second, our Planning and Economic Development staff provides personalized service to every investor who wants to open or expand a business in Yonkers.

We walk you through the process, not make you jump through hoops.

Third, our Industrial Development Agency provides targeted tax incentives in cases where they can make the difference between bringing a project to Yonkers or losing it to someplace else.

Our strategy is paying off, and this is shaping up to be another outstanding year for business in Yonkers.

Last week a developer, National Resources, unveiled an exciting plan to construct 100 micro apartments in downtown Yonkers. Called Uno at i.Park, this $15 million project will convert one of the former Otis Elevator buildings into loft style apartments.  In announcing the plan the developer cited our City’s “Extreme proximity to New York City, a vibrant downtown and a spectacular building that has great bones.”

Our Generation Yonkers campaign has positioned Yonkers as the Metro area’s next great place for people to live, work and play.  In the past year we’ve initiated more than 34 million impressions in print, online, T.V, and in radio.  More than 20,000 potential investors visited GenerationYonkers.com and we have thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers.

The new businesses coming to Yonkers are a diverse bunch. There is the hotel industry. Three national chains --- Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt began projects in Yonkers this year.  We are developing a new reputation as a center of the business and travel industry.

Cintas and Fed Ex have announced plans for major regional service facilities in Yonkers, one in the South Westchester Executive Park and the other on Tuckahoe Road.  These projects will mean hundreds of white and blue collar jobs coming to our City.

Meanwhile we attract a growing number of specialty jobs – those businesses that may not be so big, but which add their own special luster to our growing economic base.

They say we don’t make things in America any more. That’s not true. Come to Yonkers and we’ll show you.

If you’ve watched the ball drop over Times Square on New Year’s Eve, then you’ve seen the work of Hudson Scenic Studio on Fernbrook Street. They are expanding their business of providing scenery and sets for shows on Broadway and around the world. 

Check out Linoto on Knowles Street. They make luxury linen sheets. There is In2 Green on Hawthorne Avenue, who make recycled yarn products that you will find in gift shops around the nation. 

A women’s clothing boutique chose Yonkers to expand its national company and set up shop at 65 Main Street, bringing 20 new jobs to downtown Yonkers. 

And Yonkers Brewery has revived the tradition of brewing beer right in our downtown. Of course unlike the Prohibition era, when Dutch Schultz produced his alcoholic beverages in Larkin Plaza, this time it is legal.

Tomorrow we will announce that in June we are breaking ground on the Boyce Thompson development on North Broadway.  The Boyce Thompson property has been vacant and deteriorating since the ‘70s. Now it will be developed by the Simone Organization as medical offices and retail.

It’s a case study in adaptive re-use, and it shows that with the right developer we can preserve an old building and make it viable in the new economy.

Simone is responsible for the Hutchinson Center in the Bronx, one of New York City’s biggest developments, so we are extremely pleased that Joe Simone and his team are bringing their talents, and their investment dollars, to Yonkers.

Luxury housing such as the River Tides project on Warburton Avenue are moving forward, but we also know housing must be available for people of all economic levels. Working with the Municipal Housing Authority, the federal and state governments, and the private sector we continue to build additional affordable housing. 

Several months ago we began construction of Grant Park Phase II, and now 56 new units of affordable housing are rising on the site of the old Mulford Gardens.

And, working with the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal, we helped facilitate the renovation of 160 Warburton Avenue.

In the past year the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency assisted 13 new projects worth $157 million. They added more than 500 full time jobs and 950 construction jobs.  The projects ranged from the new hotels I mentioned earlier, to a moving company that purchased a building in Yonkers so it could expand its business, to the investors who purchased the old Polish Community Center and gave it new life as the Castle Royale catering hall.

Because of our success, we can now increasingly target our tax incentives. There is no need to offer a property tax break to a developer who is going to build in a prime location anyway.

We want to help out, not sell out.

In the past the City often provided 20 and 30 year property tax abatements. Now we have cut that to ten years or less in most cases. And the yearly value of the abatements is smaller.

The film and television industry continues to film major productions in Yonkers, including the recent Academy Award winner “Still Alice”. It stars Julianne Moore and was co-produced by Declan Baldwin, who moved his company, Big Indie Productions, to 55 Main Street this year. 

Since our new Film Office began its aggressive outreach to producers three years ago, we’ve seen a 61 percent increase in film days. Besides the more than $250,000 in new revenue to the City, we increasingly see our streets, parks and buildings show up on the big and small screens.

The Yonkers Film Festival continues to grow in stature, and we thank its founder, Dave Steck, for his vision in bringing this event to our City.

We’re not about to change our name to Hollywood, but we can clearly put movies high up on the list of things we make right here in Yonkers.

With all of this new business coming to Yonkers, we are also seeing a reduction in the City’s rate of unemployment. It’s down from 9.1 percent just three years ago to 6.2 percent today. That’s nearly a full percent lower than in New York City and the lowest of any of the big five cities in New York State.

We have big plans in the coming year for downtown Yonkers.  The Daylighting of the Saw Mill River will continue, as phases two and three of this trailblazing urban park and waterway project proceed.

Daylighting Phase Two, besides exposing another section of the Saw Mill River, will also create a 20,000 square foot public courtyard at Mill Street.

Phase Three will extend the daylighting past Getty Square and into New Main Street near City Hall, where it will create a new park at the edge of Chicken Island.

During the past three years there has been an explosion of arts activity in the City, and it continues.

There are now almost 40 sculptures or art installations in the waterfront and downtown. We thank Blue Door Gallery, Yonkers Arts, Hudson River Museum and Community Engagement Through the Arts who have all been supportive of bringing the arts to downtown Yonkers. 

Save the date for May 1st for the second annual Yonkers Arts Weekend, a city-wide celebration of art in Yonkers drawing hundreds of regional and international artists, thousands of visitors, and participation from Sarah Lawrence, FIT and SUNY Purchase.

Over in the Nepperhan valley the owners of the former Alexander Smith Carpet Mills are planning to transform over 1 million sq. ft. of gritty industrial buildings into a dynamic arts district.

The word is spreading that Yonkers is open to the arts.  That message brought Daniel Wolf and Maya Lin here, so that our former City Jail will soon be a major gallery.  It brought David Hammons, the man ArtNews magazine calls “our Man in Yonkers”, and Robert Zakanitch, who loves his new home so much he is making tourism t-shirts. 

We’re just getting started. Stay tuned for another exciting announcement on yet another world renowned artist who will be purchasing a historic Yonkers building.

I even hear our DPW Commissioner Tom Meier is now dabbling in the arts and is looking forward to warmer weather for creative inspiration.

As Yonkers succeeds we must be sure that everyone has an opportunity to share in that success, including our many minority and women-owned businesses.  They are often newer and smaller than more established businesses, and sometimes have less access to credit and investors. That doesn’t mean they can’t do just as good a job. All they need is to be given the chance.

That’s why we continue to improve our efforts to implement my Executive Order #5, which establishes minority and women owned business goals when awarding city government contracts and buying goods and services.

Our efforts are paying off. Since I signed the Executive Order, we’ve issued 30 contracts totaling more than $13 million. That’s real progress in giving everyone a chance to do business in Yonkers.

Let’s talk about running a smarter and more efficient government. Almost every dollar we spend comes from you, the taxpayers.

Since being elected Mayor, each of our budgets have stayed within the state property tax cap. We intend to continue that tradition. When I submit the proposed budget to the City Council in a few weeks, I will again propose staying within the property tax cap for a fourth consecutive year.

We must treat those dollars as if they are coming from our own pocket, and get full value for every penny. 

Let’s start with the water meters.  I told myself when I became mayor that if I only do one thing, it will be to fix the water meters. They were so out of date that the City was not even bothering to read them. We relied on estimated bills, which were rarely accurate and often resulted in unfair surprises to homeowners.

Out of the 30,000 water meters in Yonkers, 22,000 have already been replaced. Now we read those meters electronically, and when you get a bill you can be sure it is accurate.

Another advantage of the meter project is water conservation. One of the things we discovered, for example, was how much water the Domino Sugar factory in southwest Yonkers was using.  They were using nine percent of all the water in the City, and we were sure they could cut down.  They did. Their new water management system saved 13 million gallons of water last year, and they expect to save 26 million gallons this year – that is some sweet savings.  

Domino Sugar is a great Yonkers company, they’ve been here through thick and thin, and we’re so proud they continue to call Yonkers home.

It’s not just Domino Sugar saving water. Now that people accurately pay for the water they use, they have an incentive not to waste it.  With the estimated bills, you didn’t get any financial benefit from using less.  Now you do. As a result Yonkers is collectively using a billion gallons of less water on an annual basis.

We completely overhauled the way City Hall managed its money, installing proper controls, cutting back on waste, and implementing a cohesive financial plan. That plan has paid off. Last year, we sold the first “A” rated Yonkers bonds in 30 years. Just three years ago our bond rating was one step above junk status, and headed down.  Not only has our “A” rating saved us $2 million in the cost of issuing bonds, but it’s an indication that the City faces a better financial future.

If you visit City Hall you’ll notice something is missing from the parking garage – the payment booth.  The Parking Authority used to spend about $250,000 in salaries and fringe benefits to staff that booth. Now we have machines that will pay for themselves in less than a year. The machines also take credit cards, making the garage more convenient.

We continue to foreclose on properties whose owners stop paying taxes.  For years these zombie properties sat vacant. Eyesores that hurt our City’s economy and made neighborhoods look bad. 

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  The owner of 53 Morris Street stopped paying taxes in 1987. He continued to collect rent from the people who lived in the 18 apartments, even as the building deteriorated. It got so bad the building had to be condemned. So we began foreclosure proceedings. Now a new owner has bought the building, is planning to rehab it and bring in 18 new tenants. They will have decent and safe homes, the City will get taxes, and the neighborhood will look a whole lot better.

It’s a turnaround story, and a story that will happen again and again thanks to our aggressive policy of attacking deadbeat owners.

Back in 2012 this administration inherited twelve hundred deadbeat properties. We have since filed more than 350 foreclosure actions and collected approximately $6 million in overdue taxes.

The days when deadbeat landlords take advantage of the system at everyone else’s expense are over.

We installed an automated gas dispensing system at the public works garage. Combined with our GPS system, we can keep track of where our city cars are and how much gas they use. 

Gas may have gotten cheaper in recent months, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to waste a single gallon of the taxpayer’s money that pays for it.

Everything runs on the internet nowadays, including phone service. But City Hall was operating in the Dark Ages. This September we will make the switch to web-based phone service. It’s going to make our operations more efficient, but here’s the kicker – it will save taxpayers $150,000 in yearly telephone bills.

The biggest cost savings success, and one that is being viewed as a statewide model, is the consolidation of services between the School District and City Hall.  Something good comes from everything, and last year’s discovery that the  District had overestimated its revenues to the tune of $55 million forced a new look at finances.  We discovered that a lot of money was wasted on duplication of services, such as purchasing, personnel, and accounting.

We freed up that money so we could use our limited resources where we need them most – in the classroom.

This could not happen without the full support of our Superintendent and Board of Education Trustees. Please join me in recognizing Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael Yazurlo, Board President Dr. Nader Sayegh and the entire Board of Education Trustees.

Also please join me in recognizing our outstanding Assembly and Senate delegation who provided the legislation and funding to ensure our consolidation was a success. They couldn’t join us tonight because they are fighting for us at the State Capital, as they always do.

Nothing is more important than educating our children. Good schools are essential in order for Yonkers to be a place where people want to live, work and raise a family. Good schools are essential to the future of our children, and, as we all know, good schools are key to maintaining property values.

We know that an early start is essential to a student’s success. That’s why, working with our federal and state partners, we will provide full day Pre-K for every child beginning in September.

Our schools are bursting at the seams because Yonkers is growing so rapidly. That’s a good thing. It means people want to move to our city and send their kids to our schools.

It also means that providing classroom space will be a challenge, not just for Pre-K but for all our classes.  The Board of Education is negotiating with the New York Archdiocese to take over at least three closed parochial schools, and I have indicated to the School District that the City will provide funds in the budget to add the additional space needed.

As I look at our schools, I am amazed at the job they do in light of the limited resources that are available. The State Constitution requires that State Government provide a sound public school education for every child. But that doesn’t happen.

The state aid formula ignores the needs of districts, especially the Big 5 cities, where most of the students come from economically disadvantaged families.

And yet just a few weeks ago the State Government issued a list of schools it said were failing, either because of test scores that are not improving or because of low high school graduation rates. Several Yonkers schools were on that list.

That is unacceptable. Even one failing school is too many.

And yet that report says the problem is the teachers, and says the State should be able to take over schools that are failing.

My answer to that report is simple. The State, which shortchanges poorer school districts year after year when it comes to giving out aid, does not fulfill the obligations it already has.

What we need are enough resources so that we don’t have to put more than 30 students in a class. So that we have enough librarians, guidance counselors, teachers for special education students and for the kids who are still learning English. So that we have sports, music, art and all the other services that wealthier districts all take for granted.

To this day the State of New York has still not restored the funding they took away in 2010 when the state faced its own deficit. With a large surplus and billions in funds from banking settlements, the State is only now looking at restoring the funds they took away from us years ago.

We can’t spend as much as the wealthy suburban districts because we don’t have the high property tax base that they do. Yet the needs of our students are so much greater. They are more likely to have a learning disability, more likely to have difficulty with the English language, and less likely to have had the early childhood support that is essential.

So the students who need more get less. It makes no sense. The State aid formula is supposed to correct this. But it doesn’t. That’s why there are failing schools.

Yet our outstanding administrators, teachers, parents and the students themselves don’t let this stop them. Despite the lack of proper funding from Albany, we have some of the best schools in the state right here in our city. That’s because our students are just as bright, just as determined as any student in the suburbs.

Our schools have improved every year during this administration. My pledge tonight is that we will continue to improve them until every school meets the standard.

In the last year alone our graduation rate has increased to 76 percent.  The dropout rate is down by 3%. Regents exam scores increased in all five categories, from a 1% increase in math to a 6% increase in English. Truancy is down.

That’s real achievement. That’s real progress.

Again in 2014 Yonkers Middle/High School made the U.S. News and World Report’s list of top schools, ranking number 20 in New York State.  Saunders High School and Palisade Prep ranked in the nation’s top ten percent.

And last year we launched the School of the Month program to recognize the outstanding achievements of all our students, teachers, administrators and staff – simply saying thank you. They are excelling each and every day.

Please join me in welcoming the school principals and students here with us tonight. You make us all proud.

Our vocational training program at Saunders is probably the best in the State. In fact during a recent visit, the Deputy Commissioner of Education said it is a model that other districts need to learn from.

We will continue to succeed. During the next year we will seek to improve our pupil support services, provide more staff for students with disabilities and those needing assistance in learning English, and we want to increase sports and arts programming.

In little more than a week from now we will launch our Yonkers Thrives Partnership, based on the national Strive program that is already improving education in fifty communities nationwide. This will bring educators, business, non-for-profit organizations, community and faith-based organizations, and literally every aspect of our Yonkers community together to improve the educational outcome from cradle to career.

Businesses will provide mentors, parents will learn the most effective child development strategies, educators will devise new tools to improve outcomes, and funders will encourage collaboration to make it all work.

Please join me in welcoming some of the members of the Yonkers Thrives Executive Committee. Thank you for your commitment to our children.

We also plan to address the outdated infrastructure of our schools.

We have some of the oldest school buildings in New York State -- an average of 75 years old. To bring our schools up to modern standards we will require $2 billion over the next ten years. That’s a lot of money, but we must remember that the State of New York has already completed a billion dollar plus rebuilding program in Buffalo, and launched billion dollar programs in Rochester and Syracuse.  Now it is time for Yonkers to receive its funding.

We plan to hire a school construction program manager whose job will be to put together a school reconstruction program that we can take to Albany and request funding. 

We know getting the money that we need from the State Government will be a difficult task. But fairness is on our side. All we are asking for is for Albany to give Yonkers the same assistance that it has already given to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. If you did it for their students, you should do it for ours.

We will also be working closely with the Board of Education to use the  $23 million that will be Yonkers’ share of the recently-passed state education bond act.  It’s time to end the digital divide.

An estimated 20% of households in Yonkers do not have internet service, even though the internet is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. That’s even truer for students. If you don’t have internet at home to do homework you are on the wrong side of the digital divide.

That is why, working with the School District, we will develop a plan to bring Wi-Fi internet access to every learner in the City by 2018.

We don’t own the earth. We just borrow it from the next generation. So it’s important we treat our environment well.

Last year we launched Yonkers Green City, a community-led initiative to build a healthier, more sustainable Yonkers. We also established our Green City Advisory Committee, whose 11 members are helping us prioritize energy conservation, a sustainable environment, and engage the entire community in the effort. Yonkers also joined Sustainable Westchester, a consortium of 40 local governments all collaborating on environmental initiatives.

As you have probably noticed, our street lights in Yonkers are brighter than they used to be. They are also cheaper to operate because they have state-of-the art LED bulbs. This project, which will save $18 million in energy costs over the next ten years, won the local achievement award from the Conference of Mayors and was named an anchor project by the New York State Climate Smart Communities Program.

We are not stopping there. This year the Parking Authority will install LED lights in its garages.

We also want to encourage the use of electric cars, and will be installing charging stations in the Buena Vista and Government Center garages. 

By replacing outdated equipment with new smart and efficient technology, we're already saving $2 million out of the $16 million we spend on energy each year.

We launched a Styrofoam Recycling Program and recycled the equivalent of 600,000 coffee cups in just two months.

We issued a much better recycling guide, expanded our green fleet, and installed solar trash compactors.

We should take pride that Yonkers is a leader in the area of sustainability and that we are a national model for our energy-smart practices.

Last year there were more solar rooftops installed in Yonkers than in the previous 10 years combined.  And we have a plan to install thousands of solar panels on school buildings.

This year, thanks to our partners at the New York Power Authority, we will compete for $20 million in grant money to fund even more sustainability programs.

Please join me in thanking our great Governor Andrew Cuomo for including Yonkers in the State’s energy competition. The governor has always been there for Yonkers and we thank him.

Yonkers has long assisted the environment by hosting the County’s largest wastewater treatment facility, located in Ludlow Park, which handles half of all the County’s waste water – 90 million gallons a day. But at what cost to our residents and waterfront revitalization efforts?

Currently Westchester County pays an impact fee to the City of Peekskill of $10 million per year. Why? To compensate for the negative community impacts of the County’s trash burning facility on Peekskill’s shores.   

What about Yonkers?  For decades this City has endured the burdens which come with being the host to the County’s sewage treatment plant. 

The impacts are easily measured. There are year round odors. There is constant wear and tear on roads from vehicles transporting sludge. In addition the facility occupies some of our prime waterfront property yet pays no property taxes. It’s a raw deal and it stinks.

It’s time the City of Yonkers receives its fair share from the County of Westchester. It’s time Yonkers receives the same kind of impact fee from the County that the City of Peekskill does.

Tonight we are joined by Council President Liam McLaughlin, Majority Leader John Larkin, Minority Leader Michael Sabatino, and the entire City Council. Together, this City Council has done tremendous work for our seniors, veterans and all Yonkers residents. Let’s give them a round of applause.

Because of the City Council, Yonkers is one of the first municipalities in New York to expand rent benefits for fixed-income seniors. Under the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, otherwise known as SCRIE, passed unanimously by the City Council, Yonkers will nearly double the income threshold to $50,000 to qualify for rent benefits. It will keep seniors in their homes and protect them from year-to-year rent increases.

We must also acknowledge the sacrifices made by our many veterans who served their country, as well as the debt we owe those from Yonkers who still serve today. That’s why we enacted a local law to include school taxes in the alternative veterans’ exemption, so now veterans can qualify for the full benefit.

And to honor those veterans who might not have been rightly recognized in the past, we will designate a portion of Yonkers Avenue as Vietnam Veterans Way later this month.

Please join me in recognizing the veterans here with us tonight. Thank you for your service.

If you are here tonight, or are watching this speech at home on T.V., you care about this City.  It’s where you live or where you make a living. It’s where you’re raising a family. It’s where you’ve staked out your future and you are determined to make things work.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, because this city has some of the greatest people you could find anywhere.

We’ve got nearly 200,000 people who speak four dozen languages and represent as many cultures.  Some of us go back several generations. Others are new arrivals, not only from other communities, but from other countries. 

We are senior citizens enjoying a well-deserved retirement. We are wage earners in the prime of our careers. We are families and we are single people. We are the students in our schools.  We work in high tech industries that didn’t exist just a few years ago, and we work in the corner store that has served a neighborhood for generations. 

You’ve heard about some of them tonight. Like Declan Baldwin who said New York City and Hollywood might be the centers of the movie industry, but he’s taking his movie company to Yonkers. And now he has an Oscar winner.

There are so many others I haven’t even mentioned. People like the Reverend James Hassell of Kingdom Christian Church, Tya Green, and Neondra Navarro who have been collecting clothes and other household supplies for people who lost their homes because of a fire.

People like Kym Howell, who shows up from time to time with toiletries and coffee for the homeless.

The volunteers of Yonkers Partners in Education, who raise funds and provide tutoring and help for our high school seniors who want to apply to college, but whose families don’t have the resources to help them with the process.

So many of our students are in college today because someone they didn’t even know took the time to help them get there.

There’s Steve Byrns, and his colleagues in the Untermyer Park Conservancy who are restoring and maintaining these historic gardens that are like nothing else you will see in Westchester County.

Karen Beltran and all the parents who make up our wonderful PTAs. They put in so many hours to support the teachers and administrators.  It’s difficult at the end of a long, hard day, to go back out and spend hours at the PTA or at one of our many neighborhood associations, church councils, and all those other organizations that form the fabric of our community. But people do it because it makes Yonkers better.

And of course, we have our own hometown hero who created global awareness with some ice water and a click of a mouse – Yonkers own Pat Quinn. Pat is a co-creator of the Ice Bucket challenge that so famously swept social media last summer with its viral fundraising and awareness campaign. Led by his efforts, the campaign raised millions in donations to fight ALS.

Please join me in recognizing Pat Quinn who is here with us tonight. Thank you, Pat. You continue to inspire us all.

I could go on, because the list of ordinary people who do extraordinary things to make this City shine is long indeed.

No matter the challenges ahead, this City has a richness of human energy that guarantees our success.

We will continue to bring more businesses to Yonkers, providing more jobs for those who already live here, so that those who come to America in search of a better future can find it here.

We will continue to provide more housing for people of all incomes, making our neighborhoods stronger and preserving them for many years to come.

We will continue to be smarter in running government to keep taxes down.

We will continue to keep our City safe, and to improve our schools.

Above all, we will continue to do our best to earn the trust that the people have placed in each and every one of us, and to be able to say that Yonkers is not only a great city, but getting better with each passing year.

I hope you feel it.

I hope you’re proud of it.

The state of our city is strong, our future is bright and our best days stand before us.

God Bless you. Thank you and good night.