The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

12th Annual Staten Island Economic Development Conference

Hilton Garden Inn, Staten Island, NY
Thursday, April 29, 2010

[As Prepared for Delivery]


Thank you, Michael (Assemblyman Cusick) for those kind and generous words and thank you, my friend, for delivering that introduction exactly the way I wrote it.

Assembly Member Michael Cusick. Assembly Member Janele Hyer-Spencer. Assembly Member Matthew Titone. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. Chairman R. Randy Lee. Executive Vice Chair Stanley Friedman. President and CEO Cesar Claro. Distinguished Guests. Officers, Board Members, Supporters and Friends of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation.

Good afternoon and thank you for allowing me to address this important conference.

I am delighted to be back here on Staten Island with my Assembly colleagues, Mike Cusick, Janele Hyer-Spencer and Matt Titone, and pleased, certainly, to be sharing the dais with our new Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio.

As you know, Bill has a proven and lengthy track record of outstanding public-service leadership. I have no doubt that he will be a highly respected and successful Public Advocate, and a powerful voice for fairness and justice for the residents of this City.

Staten Island - contrary to what some have suggested over the years - does, in fact, hold a very special place in my heart.

In 1976, a young Sheldon Silver and a young Eric Vitaliano (now the United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York) co-chaired the campaign to elect then-Staten Island Assemblywoman Betty Connelly as a delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention.

To say the least, this great Staten Islander had a profound impact on my political future and she was, in many ways, a mentor to me. Like you, Betty loved this community and she was fiercely independent in her thinking when it came to Staten Island's future.

In that spirit, let me assure everyone in this room today that while I am the assemblyman who represents much of Lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center, and while I am personally committed to the reconstruction and revitalization of my hometown community, I and my Assembly Majority colleagues are wholeheartedly dedicated to rebuilding, retooling and reinvigorating Staten Island's economy and the economies of every city and every region in our state.

To that end, job creation, education and higher education are our top priorities.

This generation of New Yorkers understands that the old "one-size-fits-all" approach to economic development no longer works. The days of relying on a single entity or a single corporate goliath to provide a region with all of the jobs that it needs are long gone.

Utilizing our assets to their fullest and maximizing our comparative advantages - especially our outstanding colleges, universities and community colleges - are how we will build prosperous, sustainable, job-creating regional economies, and how we will re-energize the Empire State.

"Economic development," as you know, is a very broad term. Building research facilities to generate innovation is economic development, but doing so without also investing in education is like trying to build a house from the roof down.

A truly effective business and job creating strategy is one that encompasses all of the facets: quality education and quality health care, infrastructure, taxes and the regulatory climate, small business and manufacturing, transportation, tourism, housing, the environment; everything that makes a community attractive to businesses and workers.

Common sense dictates then, that true regional economic development must be guided by you, local business leaders, local government leaders, local academic leaders.

Who understands what makes Staten Island great better than Staten Islanders?

Who understands this community's needs better than you?

Certainly, not someone sitting in the Capitol or in City Hall or in the boardroom of some public corporation.

If you read my recent comments in the Staten Island Advance last week, you know that rather than doing away with the "BPs," I believe that the Charter Revision Commission should be granting the borough presidents and the community boards greater independence and more of a say over how services are rendered.

Call it "secession-lite," but at the very least, borough presidents should have some kind of formal way of making their community's case to City Hall and have their recommendations count in decisions that impact the community.

Let's be real here. If there is a pothole on Hylan Boulevard, the borough president ought to be able to get it filled in without having to work his way through the whole bureaucratic maze.

The example recently cited by Borough President Molinaro regarding Arthur Kill Road and the new construction that now makes it impossible for the Fire Department to fit its trucks down the narrowed street, should never have happened.

At a time when New Yorkers are demanding better government and at a time when the economy is requiring more efficient government, there needs to be better and more successful communication between the City and its Boroughs, and again, there needs to be a recognition of the unique nature and the unique needs of each community and each region.

Staten Island is not Manhattan. Its differences should be celebrated not subjugated.

Usually, when I address a gathering of economic development leaders, I suggest the region develop a master plan for economic growth. I'm not going to give that speech this afternoon, because I know that the SIEDC is already well ahead of the game.

The Assembly's role, as we see it is:

From what I have seen, the specific strategies outlined in the Staten Island 2020 study mirror the general strategies contained in our plan, and we agree with the Corporation's assessment that publicly sponsored projects, local business and housing are Staten Island's key economic engines.

Given its many assets, including the Island's port and warehouse facilities, your access to markets, your colleges, your tourism destinations, the Staten Island Ferry, and your Commercial/Industrial/and Maritime sector, there is no question that Staten Island possesses all of the building blocks for long-term economic growth as well as a solid plan for advancing your economy.

Clearly, you also have the leadership to carry this plan to fruition.

On that note, let me commend Cesar Claro, R. Randy Lee, Stanley Friedman, and the membership of the SIEDC for your clear vision, your strong leadership and your commitment to building a 21st Century Staten Island economy that maintains the unique character of this great community.

Let me add that you have outstanding leaders in your Assembly Delegation.

Over the last several years, Assembly Members Mike Cusick, Janele Hyer-Spencer and Matt Titone have delivered more than $78 million in targeted investments to support economic development and higher education.

Those investments have included tens of millions of dollars to support improvements to the College of Staten Island, including six-and-a-half million dollars to construct a new facility to support state of the art scientific computing hardware and high-tech instructional labs.

In addition, your Assembly Delegation has delivered millions of dollars in economic development grants, including $500,000 for the Snug Harbor Cultural Center to create the Tuscan Craft Center - fostering the growth of one of Staten Island's premier cultural destinations.

There is no question that Mike Cusick, Janele Hyer-Spencer and Matt Titone share your passion for Staten Island and your commitment to rebuilding its economy as thoughtfully as possible. I hope that you appreciate their work as much as I do.

Obviously, the situation we face here in New York is not all sunshine and roses. Unemployment is high, access to investment capital is virtually non-existent, and the State of New York is facing a $9.2 billion budget deficit.

The economy is rebounding, but there are still difficult days ahead and job recovery will be lagging.

Nevertheless, long-term prosperity requires that we continue to make the investments that ensure New York will remain a high-tech leader and continue to make the investments that will enable us to compete in emerging markets - which is why we pushed for and won the Green Jobs/Green New York Program.

While we look to the future for hope, we cannot ignore the serious and immediate concerns facing Staten Islanders, not the least of which is the need for more public transportation.

As I suggested earlier, there must be more cooperation between the City and the Borough Presidents so that we can finally have a more thoughtful approach to infrastructure in order to relieve the terrible traffic congestion and prevent "over development."

That said, we are prepared to work with you to address all of the immediate issues that we can and to take the necessary steps that will keep your Staten Island economic development plan on track.

Working together, I know that we can build a prosperous, job-creating 21st Century economy here on Staten Island and in every region of the State.

In this critical endeavor, we are proud to be your partners. Please know that my door - and the doors of my Assembly colleagues - are always open to this Corporation.

Thank you for listening and enjoy the remainder of your conference.