Good evening Council President McLaughlin, Majority Leader Larkin, Minority Leader Sabatino and members of the City Council, members of the Judiciary, the Board of Education Trustees, our Superintendent of Schools, teachers and students, State and County representatives, City commissioners and board members, and fellow Yonkers residents. I also want to thank those watching live on News 12, Fios 1 or online. And of course, a special thank you to my wife Mary and our kids, Michael, Alexandra and Christopher who are here with us tonight.
Before we begin this evening, let’s give the Yonkers High School Choir another round of applause.
This is the fifth time we’ve gathered here for our annual State of the City address. As always, it’s good to be here with so many people who are working so hard to make our City the wonderful place that it is.
I see so many members of our City’s team here, the people who are the bedrock of our government. I see teachers and school administrators, who are doing tremendous work on behalf of our young people. I see community leaders who put in those extra hours after their own jobs are done to help make Yonkers a better community. I see business people, labor leaders, clergy, volunteers and so many friends.
Yonkers may be the fourth largest city in the State of New York, but tonight we see what an intimate community Yonkers is. We know one another. We work with one another. We care for each another. And together we have made Yonkers a better place.
So before I say another word, let me stop and say the most important words of all: Thank you. Thank you for all you do and thank you for what I know you will keep on doing for Yonkers.
There are two things I hope to lay out in tonight’s State of the City address. Each of them is equally important.
First, I want to tell you where things stand, and what progress we’ve made since we last gathered here. We’ll talk about the many ways our City is better today than it was yesterday.
Second, we will lay out the agenda for the coming year. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the State of our City is better today and is poised to be greater tomorrow.
I watched a television show a few weeks ago. It’s called Billions, and parts of it were filmed right here in Yonkers. The show follows a billionaire in New York. In the opening episode, when asked by a reporter if he was from the area too, the hedge fund manager replies, “Yeah, Yonkers, but it wasn't nice back then.”
Those of us who know Yonkers a little better than that scriptwriter know that Yonkers was always nice in so many ways, even when we went through some difficult times. But it’s also true that the world is looking at Yonkers in a new way.
Instead of a worn out city with empty lots, the world sees an outstanding waterfront, lofts, and repurposed buildings that are attracting the most innovative companies in the new economy. They see Yonkers attracting a billion dollars in new development during the past four years, and they wonder what can be done next.
Instead of a city consumed by old conflicts about housing, they see a diverse and thriving community that has become a leader in providing new housing for people of every income level. We’ve got new luxury apartments under construction throughout Yonkers, but we are just as surely creating new affordable units for working families.
Instead of a city whose finances were on the brink of collapse, the world sees a city that is fiscally responsible and whose bond rating has been increased time and time again.
Instead of a city that is old and graying, the world sees a city that continues to attract new families, whose schools are growing, and whose restaurants, shops and businesses are thriving.
There is no question. Yonkers is better today. Now, let’s make it greater tomorrow.
Let’s start with better schools, soon to be greater schools.
Two years ago the state of New York came out with a list of what they called failing schools. They later changed the name to struggling schools. It didn’t really matter what you called them. The message was clear: There were eight schools in Yonkers that were failing to provide an acceptable education.
We knew there was a problem even before the State came out with its list. That’s why on day one of this administration we set out to change things for the better. We started by saying no more cuts to our schools.
We made it clear that despite difficult finances, cutting funds to the schools would be that last thing we would do, not the first. Our schools got more teachers every year, not less.
When you put off paving a road, you can fill the pot holes for a while longer. When you use a garbage truck a few years beyond its prime, you can make do with spare parts. But when you deprive a young student of a year of adequate education - that is something you can never make up. That lost year follows a student for the rest of their life.
This year we added 56 new teachers to our schools. In fact we’ve added a total of 122 during the past four years of this administration.
And although our school administrators and teachers could still use more resources, they are doing tremendous things with the tools we have given them. You only have to look at our increase in reading and math scores, and graduation rates, to know that’s true.
We can all be proud that just a few weeks ago five of the Yonkers schools that had been placed on the struggling list by the State have now been removed.
We are particularly proud of Roosevelt High School. It has a long and distinguished place in our City’s history. But in recent years it had not done well, with a graduation rate which fell to just forty-six percent. It was placed on the persistently struggling list. The State told us if we didn’t turn it around in a year, they would come and take it over. Guess what? We turned it around.
Now the graduation rate is nearly eighty percent, which is as good as the average for all schools in New York. But here in Yonkers we aim for greater than average, and so we will continue improving Roosevelt until it leads the state in graduation rates.
We are also extremely proud of the elementary schools that that are no longer on the struggling list. They are Enrico Fermi School, Robert Dodson School, School 13, and the Scholastic Academy for Academic Excellence.
Our schools are better today, and they will be greater tomorrow.
Let’s recognize Board President Dr. Nader Sayegh, the Board of Education Trustees, Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada, the administrators, teachers, parents and of course the students themselves.
Also, please join me in congratulating the principals of the Yonkers schools which improved under the State report:
Principal Medina – Dodson School
Principal Ametrano – Enrico Fermi School
Principal DeChent – Roosevelt High School
Principal Joyner-White – Gorton High School
Principal Pisacreta – School 5
Principal Beglane – Cornell Academy
Principal Jacobs – Family School 32
And Principal Wermuth – Yonkers Middle High School
The truth is, no matter how good your teachers are, and no matter how eager your students are to learn, it’s tough to teach or learn in buildings that are as much as 100 years old. That have plastic windows you can’t see through, crumbling ceilings, heating that doesn’t work, air conditioning that doesn’t exist, and classrooms that are converted from basements because the district needs to accommodate the overcrowding of 4,100 students.
In the past several years the State of New York has rebuilt the public schools in Buffalo, in Rochester, and in Syracuse. The state paid almost all of the cost to rebuild those schools because those cities did not have the ability to pay the cost themselves. Well, neither does Yonkers.
Yonkers is the only big four district in which the State has not rebuilt the schools. Yonkers is the only district where the schools are dangerously outdated. The only district where the schools are so overcrowded that storage rooms and windowless basements have to be used for classrooms. The only district where libraries have to be closed to make room for classroom space.
The other big cities, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse all had their turn for new State-funded schools. Now it is Yonkers’ turn.
And by the way, all those other districts are shrinking in student population while Yonkers continues to grow. That’s even more reason why our students need to be treated fairly.
Those other districts have lower graduation rates while Yonkers continues to excel. Our students should not be punished for their success.
Our students deserve the right to learn in safe, healthy, modern environments.
It’s time for New York State to act.
We have developed a plan to Rebuild Yonkers Schools, starting next year and continuing for the next twelve years. Not only will we renovate every one of our schools, but we will build three new community schools so that overcrowding will be a thing of the past. These schools will improve the educational experience and outcome of every Yonkers student for the next five generations.
With our State Delegation’s support, we will get it done. I’d like to take a moment to recognize our Delegation, Democratic Leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator George Latimer, Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow.
Together, we urge every Yonkers resident to take part in the campaign to Rebuild Yonkers Schools. Please take the time to sign our online petition at rebuildyonkersschools.com. Contact legislative leaders to show your support. Contact the Governor. Be vocal in this effort. Let’s Rebuild Yonkers Schools now.
We recognize that a child’s earliest years present an important window of opportunity to best prepare them for their academic and professional careers. That’s why we created the Yonkers Thrives Partnership, a cradle to career network that is engaging the entire community – the public sector, private sector, educators and everyone in between. This year Thrives has identified kindergarten readiness as the best way to prepare our young ones for their school career and I know their work will lead to profound results for our students.
At the same time, Yonkers Partners in Education recognizes that even more can be done for our students as they work to achieve a foundation of the American Dream – a college education. YPIE works tirelessly to support our students, providing programs like test prep courses which have resulted in an average increase of 139 points on students’ SAT scores.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing members of Yonkers Thrives and YPIE that are here with us tonight.
A great city must be a safe city. For the past three years I have been able to report each year that crime has dropped significantly from the year before.
It turns out that this year is again better than the last, and the overall crime rate has decreased once again. During the past four years overall major crime has now decreased by thirty one percent.
We continue to lead the nation’s cities in providing a safe place to live, work and play. In 2011, Yonkers was the sixth safest city of its size in the nation. Today we are the third safest city of our size. We are better than before. But we aim to be even greater in the future when it comes to being safe.
This year we added foot patrols to McLean Avenue, Elm Street, Lake Avenue, South Broadway and Getty Square. We assigned an officer to the Police Athletic League to help young people engage in healthy after school activities.
And, though we hope we never need it, we have enhanced our active shooter training program so that we will be fully prepared if there is ever an incident in our schools or other places of public assembly.
Effective policing involves more than the police who patrol the streets. It involves good relationships between the police department and the community. Although some cities are just learning this, it’s something we in Yonkers have known for a long time.
We’ve created and expanded several new programs that are making a difference, including the Youth Police Initiative which brings patrol officers and at risk young people together to work out conflicts in advance and compliments successful programs like SNUG. Our Youth Police Coalition is also highly effective in bridging the gap between teens and the Police Department. And our Police Explorer Program and Youth Police Academy both reach out to high school students interested in a career in law enforcement.
Put all of this together and you have a Police Department and a community that are determined to work together rather than stand apart.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing and thanking our Yonkers Police Department as well as the community members who work so closely with them.
We’ve all seen the headlines. Heroin use continues to increase throughout the nation, and Yonkers is not exempt from this epidemic. Our Police Department was one of the first in Westchester County to deploy Narcan to officers on the street. This lifesaving drug can be administered on the spot to someone experiencing an otherwise fatal overdose. Our police have already saved several lives using Narcan.
But more needs to be done, and the Yonkers Police Department is taking action to prevent this crisis from continuing to plague our nation’s communities. Later this month, we will introduce HEART – the Heroin Enforcement and Assistance Response Team.
The initiative is a comprehensive approach to dealing with heroin abuse. HEART will focus on education, prevention, assistance and enforcement. The team is comprised of YPD officers, caseworkers and trained substance abuse counselors who will follow up with heroin abuse suspects who are arrested, those who survive overdoses and the families affected. We will provide them with the necessary services and counseling needed to overcome this devastating addiction. Today, I am pleased to announce that St. John’s Hospital has joined HEART to assist us in the program’s detox, rehab and counseling efforts.
As many experts tell us, prescription drug abuse often leads to heroin abuse. So now prescription drug collection boxes will be permanently placed in all four Yonkers Police precincts so unwanted meds can be disposed of safely, 24 hours a day.
We continue to improve fire safety and invest in the Yonkers Fire Department, and shortly we will unveil the winning bid for a new downtown fire house – the first new fire station in 35 years.
Over the past few years we’ve purchased six new fire engines, two tower ladders and one aerial ladder. With this massive investment in the Fire Department fleet, our fire companies will now roll with modern and reliable equipment. We’ve also provided new bunker gear, thermal imaging cameras, de-contamination equipment and other crucial tools to protect our firefighters as they bravely fight fires.
This year, I am proud to announce that we will purchase an upgraded radio system for our first responders. This upgrade, which will replace the 20-year-old system, will provide our emergency personnel with a more reliable communications capability and improve our ability to save lives in case of an emergency.
Thanks to the City Council, these improvements total over $11 million in investments in the Yonkers Fire Department since 2012. No previous administration has ever made this type of investment in our Fire Department. We have the best Fire Department around. They deserve the very best equipment.
Please join me in recognizing the Yonkers Fire Department.
Together with the paramedics of Empress Ambulance, Yonkers has a first class emergency response team that only gets better with each passing year.
Yonkers continues to be a leader in protecting the environment, reducing energy use, and caring for the earth’s limited resources.
Having already replaced street lights with LED bulbs and upgraded lighting in the city’s public buildings under the Yonkers Green City program, we are now working with the Parking Authority to replace all the lights in the City’s parking garages with energy efficient LEDs.
We are always looking for the most innovative and sustainable options to make our City run more efficiently. Last week, we announced once again that Yonkers is leading by example. Our department of Public Works installed the first solar and wind powered turbine street light in the United States. We placed it at JFK Marina on the Hudson River. With Yonkers ranked as one of the top 100 cities in the nation with the highest average wind speed, we know we can use the winds to our advantage and power up our parks.
We are installing two electric charging stations near the waterfront, down at the Buena Vista Garage, provided to us through a grant by the New York Power Authority. The charging stations are available to the public, so if you live downtown and you’re thinking about purchasing an electric car, you now have an even greater incentive to do so.
We continue to utilize new technology to make services easier and more convenient for the people we serve. How often have you been in a restaurant, or maybe the barber shop, and realized that you don’t have enough time on the parking meter? In the future you won’t have run back out to the car in order to avoid a ticket because now, there’s an app for that. Working with the Parking Authority, we will implement the ability to pay for metered parking with a smartphone.
Now Councilman Shepherd can rest easily knowing he doesn’t need to run out of Rory Dolan’s to feed the meters on McLean.
We’ve made it much easier for the public to do business at City Hall. It used to be if you wanted to pay your taxes you went to one office. If you wanted to pay your water bill you went to a different office. If you wanted a dog license or birth certificate, there was yet another office to go to.
Now we’ve combined them all into one. We call it the one-stop shop. Residents can come to one single office now located on the first floor of City Hall and conduct just about any business you might need. And, to make it easier, we’ve set aside special one-hour visitor parking spaces on the top floor of the Government Center garage.
But if you don’t want to head to City Hall at all, we’ve also instituted a mobile tax office at libraries and our senior centers. This is a convenience for many seniors, but also people of every age. The number of people using the mobile office to pay their taxes rather than make a trip to City Hall has tripled since 2013.
We also continue to improve services for senior citizens. We are now serving nearly 80,000 meals to our senior citizens every year. These meals are a lifeline for homebound seniors who have difficulty in making their own meals.
We also acknowledge the many sacrifices made by our many veterans who served their country, and recognize that it is difficult at times for our millennial veterans who’ve fought in Iraq and Afghanistan when they return home. We have seen an increased number of these vets, and we are ensuring that they are aware of their benefits, assisting them through the maze of bureaucracy, concentrating on getting them involved in our local VFW's, American Legion Posts and other veteran organizations. Later this year, we will host a veteran jobs fair at Empire City, in cooperation with our Chamber of Commerce, to provide opportunities to those returning from overseas -- because a veteran should come home and be able to provide for his or her family. That’s how our nation repays its veterans.
Please join me in recognizing the veterans of all generations here with us tonight. Thank you for your service.
We are improving our infrastructure. For the past few years I have talked about our project to replace the city’s water meters. I finally don’t have to talk about them anymore, because the job is near complete. The results are accurate bills, less water use and less water waste as we can now track down leaks.
We will invest nearly $10 million during the next two years to rehabilitate the Nodine Hill water tower, replace miles of old pipes, and provide a backup water system to connect North and South Yonkers.
With the support of the New York Power Authority, we are also finishing our conversion of many City buildings from oil heat to gas, which is less expensive and reduces the city’s carbon footprint. I’d like to take a moment to thank Governor Cuomo and the Power Authority for their continued investment in Yonkers.
Recreation is important to us all, and we continue to improve the parks that we have and create new recreation opportunities.
If you’ve been to Redmond Field during the rainy season, you know all too well how often the ball fields flood. Council President McLaughlin saw it first hand during a recent Republican vs. Democrat softball game. Here’s the Council President trying – unsuccessfully – to field a ground ball in the mud. It turned into an in-the-park homerun for Councilwoman Pineda-Isaac.
This fall, thanks to the support of Council President McLaughlin and the City Council, we will begin a $750,000 renovation of Redmond Field, dredging the baseball fields there to prevent the flooding that occurs each season. We also continue to expand our parks system as proven with the popular new neighborhood park built in honor of one of our Yonkers Finest, Lt. Roy McLaughlin, who we lost last year from the effects of 9/11.
None of these projects – or any project for that matter – happens without the support of the Yonkers City Council. This is perhaps the most bipartisan and most successful Council in our City’s history. Please join me in recognizing and thanking Council President Liam McLaughlin, Majority Leader John Larkin, Minority Leader Michael Sabatino, Councilman Christopher Johnson, Councilwoman Corazon Pineda-Isaac, Councilman Dennis Shepherd and my Councilman Mike Breen.
With the support of Empire City Casino, we brought back our waterfront Fourth of July fireworks display this year. It was great to see tens of thousands of people coming together to celebrate our nation’s birthday down by the City Pier. We are working on finding funds to repeat it this year. That’s a major hint for any companies that might like to become sponsors.
We are also planning to repeat our summer film and concert series in the parks, which we held for the first time in 2015. We provided 16 evenings of family movies and concerts throughout the city at different parks during July and August. The movies were fun, the music was great, and everyone had a good time. Let’s see everyone there again this summer.
And today, I’m proud to announce that the third annual Yonkers Arts Weekend will take place Saturday, May 14th and Sunday, May 15th at locations across the City. The event will feature hundreds of artists in four of the City’s most exciting cultural hotspots: the Downtown Waterfront, the Carpet Mills Arts District, Untermyer Gardens and the Hudson River Museum.
Speaking of art, last year we welcomed a new art gallery to Main Street, Urban Studio Unbound. The gallery holds seasonal exhibits and regular workshops with young local artists.
Our Film Office continues to have one blockbuster year after another and 2015 was no different. You’ll find a film shoot in Yonkers nearly every other day, and the Yonkers Film Festival, YoFi Fest, continues to grow in stature. Tonight I’m pleased to announce that the 4th annual YoFi Fest will take place October 20-23.
Now that we have so many great community events throughout Yonkers, it’s time we paid more attention to how our city looks. Let’s start with reducing litter.
Do you know that in the downtown area alone the business improvement district’s rangers pick up more than 20 bags of litter each and every day? The Greyston Foundation rangers pick up another 60 bags of litter a day.
That’s a lot of trash. Not only does it make our city less attractive, but we spend a lot of money picking it up.
All this litter begs the question: where is it coming from? who’s doing this to our city? The answer is: we are doing it to ourselves. It’s the commuter getting off the train and dropping a coffee cup or the young person tossing a candy wrapper onto the sidewalk. It’s the lack of pride some might have in keeping our neighborhoods clean.
So tonight, I am pleased to announce that this spring we will launch a citywide anti-littering campaign. Lead by our City Council and their commitment to keeping our neighborhoods clean, we will work together so that no one dumps on our Yonkers. I urge everyone to take part.
This year, we will begin construction on the Yonkers Rail Trail. We are going to create a bike, jogging and walking path that will start at Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx and extend right through Yonkers. Phase One, with a budget of $1.5 million, will begin this year at the City line near Lawrence Street. The plans include a new playground at Lawrence Street and installation of public artworks, including sculpture and mosaics by Groundwork Hudson Valley and Yonkers’ own Haifa bin Kadi.
Thank you Groundwork and Haifa for your continued work in making Yonkers a better city in which to live, work and play.
We are also nearly ready to open Mill Street Courtyard, Phase Two of the Saw Mill River daylighting in the downtown. Once this opens, you will be able to walk from the waterfront esplanade near the City Pier, then up alongside the Saw Mill River right to New Main Street.
While constructing Mill Street Courtyard, we uncovered a mill stone that is believed to date back 150 years. The placement and condition of the stone tells us it was most likely part of the old Yonkers Flouring Mill on Warburton Avenue. This artifact will stay in place at the courtyard to remind visitors about Yonkers’ rich history.
It was not so long ago that we unveiled our Generation Yonkers economic development campaign. We’ve been successfully attracting new businesses and jobs to Yonkers for the past four years, and now we are doing even better.
In 2015, we passed the billion dollar mark in new construction underway in Yonkers during the past four years. It hasn’t slowed down. We are already working on our second billion.
The Boyce Thompson property, vacant for 40 years, is just months away from opening as a retail and office center on North Broadway. Recently, Simone Development announced that destination eatery, Fortina, will be one of their first tenants. Owners Rob Krauss, Christian Petroni and John Nealon are here with us tonight – I want to say thank you for your investment and welcome to Yonkers.
Ridge Hill Shopping Center continues to expand, with construction of Westchester’s first Lowe’s home goods store underway. And the first and only I-Fly skydiving attraction on the eastern seaboard is now open.
Cintas is developing a new distribution center off of Executive Boulevard. The FedEx distribution center and the new Hampton Inn hotel on Tuckahoe Road are under construction, joining the new Courtyard by Marriott in north Yonkers and the new Hyatt at the Cross County Shopping Center, which is already completed. By the way that now means Yonkers has six nationally branded hotels. Just a few years ago we didn’t have a single one. And we will soon welcome one more, with a new Hyatt on tap for Ridge Hill.
There are so many hotels in Yonkers now that, working with our Department of Planning and Development, they will be part of the Yonkers Tourism Alliance. This Tourism Alliance will bring hotels together with our city’s museums, attractions, and other points of interest to promote Yonkers both regionally and nationally.
Whether it’s our outstanding Hudson River Museum with its state of the art planetarium, the classic architecture of Untermyer Gardens or the unparalled views of the Palisades; family attractions such Legoland and the new soon-to-open comedy club at Ridge Hill; or young, hip establishments like Shake Shack at Cross County, there are dozens of reasons to visit Yonkers. We want to make sure everyone knows about us.
I also want to mention one new business that, while quite small, is nonetheless significant. Millions of Americans, young and old, suffer each day from the effects of cancer, epilepsy, arthritis and more. They want nothing more than to ease their pain to get through the day. They are entitled to compassionate care, and they will soon find it in Yonkers.
Etain, a medical marijuana dispensary, will soon open on Main Street in the downtown. Although most Americans, including, most New Yorkers, favor allowing medical marijuana to alleviate pain, seizures, and other debilitating conditions, many communities in New York State have worked to keep these dispensaries out. We did not.
In Yonkers, we recognize the need for patients to live with less pain and with dignity. We recognize that the dispensaries, similar to pharmacies, provide a medically-proven service – often times the only form of relief for these critically ill patients. When I was in the Assembly, I supported New York’s Compassionate Care Act. In Yonkers, we take those words very seriously.
The downtown continues to thrive.
RXR is moving forward on their signature residential towers to be built at Larkin Plaza, new micro-apartments are under construction at I-Park, Mill Creek will break ground on a 324-unit tower on the waterfront, and Hudson Park Phase Three is underway with another 222 units.
I am also able to report tonight, for the first time, that Avalon Bay is planning to build a new housing complex on Alexander Street. Avalon is one of the premier builders in the United States, and they have already constructed housing in many Westchester communities. Now we welcome them to Yonkers as they transform former industrial land into prime waterfront homes.
Right across the street from Avalon Bay, Chicken Island Brewing will open a new 11,000 square foot craft brewery, joining Yonkers Brewing Company in reviving our City’s long tradition and attracting even more young people to the waterfront. Please join me in welcoming owner Andy Fondak to Yonkers.
But we’re not stopping there. I have one more announcement to make. It’s a company that will bring 600 new jobs to our City and millions in annual revenues. We’ve been aiming to bring them here for years and we finally hit the mark. Now I can’t give you all the details just yet, but we’re in store for something really special.
As downtown continues to thrive, we are also turning our attention to how you get there. One of the longstanding obstacles to both bus and private vehicle movement in Yonkers is Ashburton Avenue, which is one of the two east west corridors that provide access to downtown. Sometimes it seems it would be almost as fast to walk rather than deal with the congestion.
This year, funded with 12 million in Federal, State and City dollars, we will begin improvement of the Ashburton Avenue corridor. We will install computerized timing systems that will synchronize the traffic lights and build turning lanes so that drivers making turns won’t block everyone behind them.
And to improve traffic flow on Yonkers Avenue, our engineers also are relocating the school bus stop at Prescott Street to Fillmore Street. Not only will this make some of our lives a little less stressful during rush hour, but more importantly, it will provide for a safer location for our children when traveling to and from school.
Yonkers is the center of new development and construction in Westchester County, and you can’t overstate the significance of that, especially since for so many years we struggled to bring investment here.
Yonkers is a growing, thriving, attractive city that has a good future. Yet we have some extremely serious challenges ahead, especially with regard to the City’s budget.
Let’s talk about gas prices. Now I’m not going to take credit for the fall in gas prices, but I do want to make a point about its effect on municipal budgets.
First things first. Consumers, we love lower gas prices. Me especially, because my teenage son Michael just started driving. But when gas prices fall, so do revenue to local governments and that presents a challenge.
Let’s talk about the property tax cap. I voted for it in the Assembly and I’m a strong supporter. As Mayor, we’ve kept property taxes within the cap for four consecutive years and this year I will once again propose a City Budget that stays within the property tax cap. But it also presents a challenge because it limits the amount of revenue local governments can collect.
So when employee salaries go up, pension and health care costs go up, uniformed overtime goes up and the tax cap is nearly flat, we’ve got a challenge.
So how do we get through it? First, the budget I will present to the City Council in a few weeks will call for additional belt tightening across every department, except education. Spending must be in line with revenues – it’s as simple as that. Second, we have got to address uniformed overtime. And third, we will continue to push our Federal and State partners to increase aid to local governments.
I often talk, and talk proudly, of how diverse Yonkers is. More than being a city that is just diverse, we are a city that demonstrates that diversity works. We speak many languages and have many cultural traditions. We also work at a variety of jobs, which means we earn a variety of incomes. Some high, some low.
And so one thing we must do as we celebrate our diversity, is to make sure that we continue to provide adequate housing for all, including those on the lower end of the economic scale.
Our City is experiencing tremendous growth in the luxury housing market. Besides the hundreds of units in the downtown I mentioned earlier, the Ginsberg Organization is developing nearly 400 units alongside the City’s northern riverfront and the Met Life building along Palmer Road is being converted to luxury condominiums.
But we also need housing that is affordable to residents with low and moderate incomes. This year we continued to make significant progress in providing affordable housing for the people of Yonkers, opening the School House Terrace and Grant Park communities.
Tonight I am proud to announce that the Municipal Housing Authority is working with three developers, L&M Development Partners, NHP Foundation, and the Properties Resource Foundation, to rehabilitate all 1,773 units of affordable housing.
This rehabilitation program will begin next year, and it will be the first major renovation of these units since the City began building them shortly after World War Two. It’s about time.
Special thanks to MHA Director Joe Shuldiner, Board Chair Judge Doran and the rest of the MHA board for making this happen.
I began this evening by saying Yonkers is better today, but that we will be even greater in the future.
We are safer than yesterday -- 31 percent safer. But we are working to be safer still. Better today. Greater tomorrow.
Our bond rating, which was on the way to junk status in 2011, is now on the way up. We’ve got the first A-rated bonds since anyone can remember. Better today. Greater tomorrow.
Our schools are better today, and they will be greater tomorrow because we know that a city is nothing if it cannot educate its children.
Even though we are making progress, especially as we transformed five of our struggling schools into achieving schools, we know the job is not done until every child has the opportunity to be all that he or she can be.
We are a city on the move. We are a city that people move to rather than move from, with hundreds upon hundreds of new homes under construction. We are a city that is gaining jobs rather than losing them, as a billion dollars in private investment has resulted in hundreds of new permanent jobs.
We are a city that is better today, will be greater tomorrow and whose future is assured by the tremendous effort of people like you who join us tonight, those who may be home watching on TV, those who cannot watch because they are busy patrolling our streets, staffing our fire stations, volunteering to help their neighbors, and those who undertake the thousands of jobs that make Yonkers the wonderful home that it is for us all.
Yonkers is the sum total of all these people and the work they have done and continue to do to make Yonkers a better place.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no doubt, Yonkers is better today and we will be even greater tomorrow.
God Bless you.
God Bless Yonkers.
Thank you and good night.