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The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association Breakfast

The Ritz-Carlton NY Battery Park Hotel, 2 West St., Manhattan
Friday, February 9, 2007 [8:30 a.m.]


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Speaker Silver and Eric Deutsch, new president of the Downtown Alliance

Good morning.

Thank you President Deutsch for that warm and generous introduction.

It's good to see that so many of my Lower Manhattan allies are here this morning.

Eric Deutsch. Bill Rudin. Jim Cavanaugh. Jim Gill. Julie Menin. Carl Weisbrod. Madelyn Wils. Tony Watson. Mindy Proper. Jim Hayworth. Janno Lieber.

My thanks to all of you for being here and my thanks to the Association for inviting me.

I realize that everyone is fascinated by the evolution of the relationship between the Spitzer Administration and the State Legislature.

Let me be crystal clear about this.

Whatever disagreements exist - and are perceived to exist - among the branches of New York State's government, they are miniscule, they are insignificant, they are nothing when compared to what happened at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001.

I don't have to ask, I know, and I guarantee you that Governor Spitzer believes the same.

He believes - as we believe - that it is the moral obligation of this Nation, this State and this City

  • To heal Lower Manhattan;
  • To rebuild;
  • To revitalize its individual communities and our mutual economy;
  • To preserve our place as the financial and business capital of the world;
  • And to respond to the darkness of terrorism with a brightness of leadership, Democracy and humanity for which this Nation is longing.

To guide us toward that brighter and better Lower Manhattan that we all want;

To guide us toward the better and brighter Lower Manhattan that is the debt we owe to the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, the husbands and wives, who are the innocent casualties of September Eleventh;

Governor Spitzer has provided us with the best and brightest minds:

  • Tony Shorris, to lead the Port Authority;
  • Patrick Foye and Avi Schick, to lead the Empire State Development Corporation;
  • And Lee Sander, to lead the MTA.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the leadership Lower Manhattan has so long been missing is here, and I - for one - look forward to working in partnership with Eliot and his excellent team to move the rebuilding process forward more efficiently and expediently than ever before.

As one who owes so much to this community, I have made it my mission to keep our federal, state and city leaders focused on the moral obligation we share.

I believe it has been, is, and will continue to be my obligation to offer - from time to time - an honest appraisal of Lower Manhattan's recovery.

I will not waste your time with a history lesson.

Viewed in its entirety, we all know that Lower Manhattan's recovery has been slower and weaker than it could have been and should have been.

The cost of delay, compounded over five years, is beyond calculation.

As you remember, that was why I advanced my Marshall Plan for Lower Manhattan and worked so hard to get the Governor, the Senate and the Mayor to approve it.

Let's talk about where we are now.

After years of prodding, I am pleased that the Port Authority has begun work on the East Slurry Wall, which will enable construction of World Trade Center Two, Three and Four along with extensive retail space, more than existed before the attacks.

Completion of the "bathtub" will also lead to construction of the Bus and Vehicular Security Center, the PATH Transit Hub, and of course, the Freedom Tower.

Along with the construction of the Bathtub, I am pleased the deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank building will be completed by the end of the year.

Following this breakfast, I will be meeting with CUNY and EPA officials and members of the community to determine what needs to be done to advance the deconstruction of Fiterman Hall; the progress of which should be visible to the public in the next few months.

Lower Manhattan must remain a vibrant, safe and attractive 24-hour-a-day, residential and business community.

As these thousands of new residential units go up, it is critical that we also provide the schools, the parks, the community centers, and all of the other "quality of life" services that define a great, American city.

Progress is being made on the new Beekman Street School, which I was able to secure for the children of Lower Manhattan.

Currently, I am working with Julie Menin and Community Board One to encourage the Department of Education and the Battery Park City Authority to build another school at the southern end of Battery Park City.

I am encouraged by the progress of those discussions.

Let me also take a moment to mention how gratified I am that the Millennium High School has become one of the most sought-after high schools in the City.

I am proud to have been a partner in the financing of this outstanding school.

I applaud Community Board One and its former chair, Madelyn Wils, for their hard work in getting that school built.

I am also pleased that the City will soon be opening new public parks at Wall, Hanover Square, Burling Slip, Water Street and Fulton Streets, and I am gratified that the State and City are working together to restore both the Hudson River and the East River waterfronts.

If we are to restore Lower Manhattan as the third largest business district in the Nation, we must construct the most modern, efficient, and accessible transportation system in the world.

Transportation is the key to Lower Manhattan's future.

I am pleased that work on the two primary transit hubs, the World Trade Center PATH Station and the Fulton Transit Center, is moving forward as is the work on the South Ferry Station.

Washington's $2 billion commitment to the transportation needs of Lower Manhattan - fought for by our bipartisan Congressional Delegation, with the leadership of our distinguished Senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton - must be dedicated to providing direct access to JFK, Nassau and Suffolk Counties from Downtown Manhattan.

The MTA must also maintain its commitment to the Second Avenue Subway and to Long Island Railroad eastside access to Grand Central Station.

These improvements will make Lower Manhattan far more accessible to commuters from suburban areas and will create a seamless mass transit network for thousands of commuters.

I will work with the Governor and with our Congressional Delegation to ensure that this funding moves forward in the budget as Congress moves toward its adoption.

This is an extraordinary undertaking. It is, without a doubt, the most intense reconstruction project taking place in the United States today.

So let me once again salute Charlie Maikish and the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center for the excellent job they are doing in overseeing and coordinating all of this construction.

Charlie, I know that all of the construction that is happening now - and will happen in the near future - will create some operational difficulties.

I know I speak for my community when I say that we appreciate the good work you have been doing and that we stand ready to work with you to get Lower Manhattan through this "rebirthing" process.

As for the Lower Manhattan economy, it is clear that the incentives provided in my Marshall Plan:

  • The elimination of, and the reductions in, the commercial rent tax;
  • The sales-tax exemptions;
  • The modifications to REAP;
  • And the World Trade Center rent credits;

Have been instrumental in Lower Manhattan's economic resurgence.

Private employment has grown four percent in the second quarter of 2006 over the second quarter of 2005. That is 19,070 additional jobs.

Data from the first quarter of 2006 suggests that private wages are increasing throughout Manhattan.

According to a December 2006 report of the Pace Downtown Index, the growth rate of the Lower Manhattan economy surpassed its "pre-9/11" value.

According to the 2006 year-end report from Cushman and Wakefield, the vacancy rate in the office-space market fell to 8.4-percent from 10.6-percent last year.

More than 5.6 million square feet of Downtown office space has been leased. That is the highest rate of leasing activity since September Eleventh.

Moody's decision to expand its Lower Manhattan operations by several hundred thousand square feet at Seven World Trade was a major victory for this community.

The naysayers who predicted that Larry Silverstein "couldn't do," now quietly acknowledge that Larry Silverstein has done - and done well - at Seven World Trade Center.

Overall, the real estate market is hitting on all cylinders.

Occupancy rates in our hotels are at their highest levels since the attacks.

Tourism is strong and the financial markets are booming.

Look at what has been accomplished despite all of the delays, with all of the fumbling, with all of the empty promises.

Imagine what we can do now, and over the next four years.

Let us not rest on our laurels or sit back and let others carry the weight.

We must keep the focus on Lower Manhattan. Let's all be excited about our future.

As I told Bill Rudin and the Association for a Better New York last October, I support West Side Development.

Over the next 20 years, the City's economy is going to need additional office space, somewhere between 50 million square feet and 80 million square feet of office space.

Lower Manhattan is "phase one" of fulfilling that need.

There should be no competition. There should be unity of mind and singularity of purpose, and that purpose must be to finish the job in Lower Manhattan.

Finish "phase one," then move on to "phase two."

My second point hearkens back to an earlier comment.

There are two-sides to every story.

Yes employment is growing, but keep in mind that there are still 34,000 fewer jobs in Lower Manhattan than there were on September 10th, 2001.

That's 34,000 fewer diners sitting in our restaurants.

That's 34,000 fewer shoppers in our stores.

That's 34,000 fewer patrons in our club, our theaters, our museums and our galleries.

Keep in mind, human remains are still being discovered at Ground Zero more than five years after the attacks, and the debacle over health-care funding for our sick and dying 9/11 first responders is still going on.

As I said earlier, there is a debt that we owe this community, its casualties, their families, their children.

The job we do will be judged by generations to come.

We must work together - the City, the State, all of us in this room - to ensure the right thing is always done in the right and responsible way.

In that spirit, I will support the Port Authority's re-evaluation of the plans for the Freedom Tower. I caution, however, that its conclusions be reached quickly.

We will look at the incentives that were provided in the Marshall Plan to determine whether they should be extended or enhanced, and to decide if additional incentives are needed.

We must ensure that all of the insurance companies provide their funding immediately, so that the rebuilding process will be delayed no longer.

Finally, let me say that it's time to get the funding in place and make a commitment to building the Frank Gehry Performing Arts Center.

In the vision for ONE NEW YORK that Governor Spitzer portrayed in his State of the State Address, he made this pledge:

" We must show the resilience of our spirit by completing the rebuilding of Ground Zero. I cannot accept that more than five years after the attacks of September 11th, progress is only starting to be made. What ought to be a monument to the sacrifice of our heroes and the strength of our economy has instead become a monument to government gridlock. I immediately will begin working with Speaker Silver - who has long been a strong voice for Lower Manhattan redevelopment - along with Mayor Bloomberg and the other stakeholders involved, to revitalize Ground Zero."

When it comes to Lower Manhattan, there are no disagreements.

We have a moral obligation and I accepted the Governor's offer to honor that obligation long before Day One.

We will honor the resilience of our spirit!

We will honor the sacrifice of our heroes!

That is our mission. That is our promise.

We shall not fail!



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