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Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s State of the City 2015

Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s State of the City 2015

Bienvenidos!

Won-Ying!

Welcome to El Barrio, East Harlem!

Thank you to our Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer!

Thank you to Reverend Que English from the Bronx Christian Fellowship!

Thank you to Reverend Anita Burson of the Elpida Community Baptist Church, Brooklyn!

Thank you to all our honored guests, elected officials, Council Members and Mayor de Blasio for their commitment to our city!

Photo And a very special thank you Ethel for that wonderful introduction!

Ethel and I have worked together for many years, so today is an incredible day for us – let’s give Ethel a round of applause.

This is such a wonderful moment and it means even more to me because this is a special neighborhood. Around the corner on 111th street is where my abuelo used to play stick ball – and on 106th and Fifth Avenue is where my father, ‘mi papá was born.

This is also a community rich in culture: the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center, El Museo del Barrio and the Museum of the City of New York are not too far from here. The Spirit of East Harlem mural is at 104th and

Lexington Ave. If you’re into hexes and witchcraft though, that mural is on 100th street.

A few blocks from here is one of my favorite spots, La Marqueta – a community market that thanks to a lot of hard work is not only being revitalized, it’s becoming a jewel of the neighborhood once more.

So stay tuned, there is more yet to come.

To the north in the Bronx, we have the Pregones Theatre, the beautiful Mott Haven Historical District, Urban Farms, active community gardens like Brook Park and the soon to be built Bronx Children’s Museum.

Also in the Bronx is Lincoln Hospital where mi mamá was born. I know she’s watching today on the livestream along with everyone else in Puerto Rico.

Businesses, museums and landmarks like these make this neighborhood exceptional. But beyond its special cultural flare, El Barrio has been an epicenter of struggle in this City. It was at the Park Palace that Congressman

Vito Marcantonio passionately defended the rights of workers and called for a living wage standard.

On 111th and Lexington, the Young Lords occupied an unused church basement so they could distribute food, and later conducted door to door tuberculosis testing.

It was where one of my mentors, Dr. Antonia Pantoja, founded ASPIRA to empower Puerto Rican youth.

And the building in which we are seated is named after famed civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson.

It was Johnson who penned the African American National Anthem ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ a song we especially remember during Black History Month.

This center took years to win as Ethel described and it was the collective work of many.

They represent the fighting spirit of this community.

Also not too far from here is the location of the East Harlem explosion.

On that horrible day 11 months ago, eight lives were taken from us.

I will never forget our brave first responders: our fire fighters, our NYPD officers and our EMS workers who worked around the clock to save lives.

This community thanks you all to this day.

Señoras y Señores, este es El Barrio.

And this is a part of the story of our great City–a City of communities that re-imagine, that advocate for every voice; and that push all corners of our boroughs forward. Sí, pa’lante.

Yet for far too long, the starting point for communities like East Harlem has been at the base of a mountain.

Instead, attitudes have to shift, policies have to be smarter, and systems have to change.

We do this with a vision we are driving toward, and willingness to address problems at their root by working together.

This City Council has operated with unity, and our accomplishments in the last year have made New York a better place.

We started by making government more accountable, more democratic and more transparent by reforming the Council’s rules.

We took the politics out of funding; creating a formula that brings more resources to the communities that need them most.

It’s something I pledged to do during the Speaker’s race because I believed that empowering each member would empower New Yorkers.

When Council Members are treated fairly – it’s New Yorkers who benefit.

Legislatively, we passed a broader paid sick leave law, because no parent should have to choose between caring for a sick child and putting food on the table.

We understood that we had to act on climate change, so the Council led in creating a bold climate agenda aimed at reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

We also established a new committee on Recovery and Resiliency to track New York City’s long-term and emergency preparedness.

Because our streets needed to be safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers,

we lowered the speed limit and passed laws which have made our streets the safest they’ve ever been.

We also opened doors by passing legislation making it easier for transgender New Yorkers to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, helped seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes, and launched free school lunch programs.

We’ve also stood up for immigrant New Yorkers.

While some in Washington continued to throw roadblocks up against immigration reform, this City Council has been a national leader.

We passed a landmark municipal ID program, passed legislation that curbs harmful deportations that rip families apart, and we funded legal services in immigration court.

And when faced with the unaccompanied minors crisis, we did not shrink from the moment. We rose to the challenge and upheld our highest value,our humanity.

So in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation and New York Community Trust, we created a public-private partnership that’s giving representation to every single child who makes their way to New York City.

None of the children who made their way here, escaping horrific violence, are facing their plight alone and these children’s lives are forever changed because of this City Council.

All of these achievements were made possible by a New City Council that has operated collaboratively, effectively and with unity.

Whether you are from Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx or Manhattan, we have worked together.

This is the participatory government many of us believe in and today it’s the government we have.

Among us in the Council are the formerly homeless, small business owners, members of our LGBT community, immigrants, activists, organizers, union members, teachers, people living with HIV — a professional basketball player, a superb shortstop and even an expert salsa dancer.

Please join me in thanking all of our Council Members for their hard work over the past year. Gracias mis colegas.

Together we’re going to empower, we’re going to uplift and we’re going to make sure all New Yorkers are heard.

We will tackle systemic issues in human rights, workers’ rights and civil justice. We will take on long-standing challenges in public housing, small business, criminal justice education–and we will do it, together!

James Weldon Johnson didn’t write “lift a few voices.”

He didn’t write, “lift some voices.”

He wrote, “Lift every voice” – cada voz.

That is what we are going to do –and here is how.

First, we’re going to reinvigorate New York City’s Human Rights Commission and expand our Human Rights Law.

Our Human Rights Law is one of the strongest in the United States -declaring our commitment to equality and fairness.

It protects people against discrimination on the basis of their race, color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation – along with nationality, citizenship, disability, age, and more.

But the institution that oversees the implementation and enforcement of this important law has not kept up with changing times.

In fact, the Commission has become increasingly less effective, losing 80% of its funding and cutting staff by more than 90% since the 1990’s.

Injured parties now turn to the court–or worse, stay silent.

The Mayor’s recent appointment of new Commission leadership is an important step – but the Council has a critical opportunity to do more.

This City Council is going to reinvest in a robust and comprehensive human rights infrastructure that is fit for 2015.

We will jump-start the Commission on Human Rights by restoring $5 million of the Commission’s funding, and doubling the number of attorneys and human rights specialists, those on the front lines protecting New Yorker’s rights.

And we will make the Commission accountable for prosecuting cases, going after the worst offenders through proactive investigations and spot testing in areas such as employment and housing discrimination.

Quite simply, we’re going to put teeth in a Commission that has been ineffective for too long.

The Council will also take legislative action to strengthen the Human Rights Law by overhauling its provisions – because everyone should understand the protections it affords.

We will expand the law to defend workers who have to provide care to family members – because mothers and fathers should not face employment discrimination to care for the people who depend on them.

We will pass legislation expanding the law’s protections to New Yorkers who have poor credit, so that falling behind on medical or student bills isn’t an unfair barrier to a job.

We’ll offer a fair chance to people who have had trouble with the criminal justice system …because they also deserve a second chance at securing employment and becoming productive members of our society.

And we will also listen to the voices longing for more inclusive voting.

Strengthening the City’s commitment to human rights is an important step toward ensuring equality and fairness in our City.

But our work will not end there -we must also increase access to our civil justice system.

The research is clear: the better your access to a lawyer, the better your access to justice.

But each year more than a million low-income New Yorkers who need civil legal help don’t get it.

They battle evictions. They struggle with debt collectors. They fight to receive the government benefits to which they are entitled.

And they do it alone.

What’s worse: the people most likely to have legal problems are often the most vulnerable – seniors, people with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence.

The Council has led the way on funding these services, having nearly doubled overall funding in the last budget.

But the need is still great. Justice should not be reserved for only those who can afford it.

To do this, we are going to create an Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator.

Their job will be simple: work to ensure legal representation is available to all.

This will be the People’s Law Firm…El Bufete del Pueblo.

The new Civil Justice Coordinator will make budget recommendations, coordinate the efforts of existing legal service providers, and develop a system to give legal help to people after disasters.

The Coordinator will then create a five-year plan that ensures New Yorkers have access to the legal help they need.

We’re also going to bolster the resources of our partners by increasing funding for civil legal service providers and expanding programs that work.

These are programs like the Court-Based Homelessness Prevention Project, which fights on behalf of families facing eviction.

We will expand this program so that 6,000 more families in the neighborhoods with the greatest need will get services and legal representation in housing court.

Providing this access to New Yorkers is not only fair it’s also the fiscally responsible thing to do.

A recent study found that for every one -dollar invested in these services, we save six.

We’ve already seen lives changed when people have access to representation.

I spoke the other day with Shaun Little from Queens, a survivor of Hurricane Sandy.

After she lost everything in the storm, the City relocated Ms. Little to a mass shelter, and eventually a hotel.

When the City threatened to stop housing her family and 488 other families, Ms. Little turned to Legal Aid.

With their help, she was able to stay in her temporary housing – and then find a home of her very own on Staten Island.

But without an advocate, there is a good chance she would have been homeless.

These are the voices we’re going to empower.

Greater access to civil legal services will benefit tens of thousands of

New Yorkers, will change outcomes for the better, and will make New York City a more just place to live.

Promoting equality and fairness in our City also means facing up to one of the most important socioeconomic challenges of our time: income inequality.

It’s a national problem that strikes at the heart of who we are: if you work hard you should be able to provide for you and your family.

Yet many don’t earn enough to make ends meet.

This is compounded by the fact that on average, women still earn less than men – 82 cents for every dollar. For women of color that picture is even more grim.

The wages of too many New Yorkers are simply decades behind the cost of living in this city.

This forces people to desperately scramble from paycheck to paycheck; causes families to double-up in crowded conditions; or pushes people to work multiple jobs, just to get by.

It’s just not fair.

So we will start by going to Albany in the coming weeks to fight for authority to control our own minimum wage.

Because that conversation should happen here in New York City, not Albany.

And while the State establishes and enforces basic labor laws, it simply does not have the resources to root out all the bad actors.

For example, wage theft continues to be a pervasive problem in New York City.

The numbers are truly staggering: advocates report that approximately $1 billion dollars is stolen from low wage workers each year.

That’s money that can’t be spent on rent, or groceries or can’t be put aside for college.

It’s time for the City to be proactive.

So while we’re in Albany fighting for control over the minimum wage, we will also seek authority to enforce the State’s labor laws.

That way, we can better protect workers and ensure they are receiving the wages and working under the conditions they deserve.

We will also advocate for workers to get paid family leave through an expansion of the State’s temporary disability insurance program.

Using a system that has been in place for decades, implementation of paid family leave will be simple, with minimal administrative burdens for City businesses.

An adequate support system should be in place to allow a working parent to be with their newborn baby, or to care for a child who is seriously ill.

At the local level, we will review policies that support working families.

These include more predictable and stable schedules, so chaotic working hours don’t mean lost pay and strained families.

And we will convene businesses with model workplace policies to share best practices.

This is an ambitious plan: so we will pass legislation creating a New York City Office of Labor that is going to help coordinate the efforts.

The Office will study and promote programs on worker protections, education and safety – and it will also enforce City laws like paid sick leaveand transit benefits.

And when we win the right to enforce State labor laws, or when we pass future legislation that supports workers, the Office will be there to hit the ground running.

The Office of Labor will help workers and employers understand their rights and responsibilities, and it will assist businesses to comply with the law.

This collaboration with employers is important because for workers to do better, for our city to do better, we must support all of our city’s businesses.

This includes our small businesses.

There are more than 220,000 small businesses in New York City employing more than 1.5 million New Yorkers.

These are the New Yorkers who make this city hum.

They are the local restaurants, nail salons and boutiques – and they represent the industrious spirit of New York City.

As you’ll see outside later, we’re going to be joined by several food trucks – these are the New Yorkers we’re talking about.

Indeed, almost 48% of small businesses in New York City are owned by immigrants- we must increase support for these entrepreneurs to help them develop and expand.

Imagine New York City without its hair salons, bodegas and delis? We would not know what to do!

So the Council will continue to work with the Administration to improve the regulatory climate for small businesses in the City through, for example, the Small Business First initiatives.

This includes reducing fines, improving communication and streamlining the licensing, permitting and tribunal process.

The Council will also pass legislation

  • Establishing a Small Business Advocate position
  • Improving inspector training by taking into account business feedback
  • Improving language translation services

Finally, the Council will work to implement the recommendations in the “Engines of Opportunity” report we released in November.

Those zoning and land-use tools will protect industrial space and support growth in the City’s traditional manufacturing sectors – like furniture and ethnic food –and also nurture growing creative sector industries, because we want the next MakerBot or Etsy to set up right here in New York City.

Jobs in businesses like manufacturing are gateways into the middle class for many first-generation immigrants.

They diversify our economy, and nurture vibrant mixed-use and walk-to-work neighborhoods.

Our small businesses need our support, and we will stand up for them.

For the City to prosper, we must also address affordable housing – in particular, the long-standing issues that face the New York City Housing Authority.

More than 400,000 New Yorkers live in the 334 public housing developments across the five boroughs.

That makes NYCHA one of the 50 biggest cities in the country.

Indeed, the cornerstone of affordable housing in New York City is NYCHA — and my Council district is home to the most public housing in all of New York.

We’re proud to have made engaging with NYCHA residents a priority in this Council.

Last year, we held a field hearing on conditions in public housing at the

Carey Gardens in Brooklyn – a first for the City Council.

And today, this is the first time a Speakers State of the City has been held outside of Lower Manhattan and in the heart of a public housing development.

Within this complex, we are here to present our vision for the City.

Photo 5But we are also here to let NYCHA residents know that we hear you – los escuchamos.

We will not abandon you- and we are going to lift up your voices, so that others can hear them too.

That starts with increasing resources. Our first step will be to shore up NYCHA’s funding.

Due in large part to a steady decline in federal funding and an almost complete halt in State funding, NYCHA has been running large annual operating deficits for far too long.

And its capital budget gap for needed building and infrastructure work has soared to more than $18 billion dollars.

In fiscal year 2015, the City plans to commit over $225 million dollars in capital funding to improve conditions at NYCHA.

Today, I am sending a letter signed by all my colleagues with public housing in their districts to the Governor, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Skelos, calling on  the State to use some of the $5 billion dollars it received from the bank settlements to match our commitment.

We call on the federal government to do the same – because the chronic funding gap at NYCHA severely constrains its ability to make necessary repairs and upgrades to its aging infrastructure.

This will improve the quality of life for residents and maintain our affordable public housing stock in a state of good repair.

The Council will also provide $25 million dollars in additional funds for critical system improvements.

Like brickwork and roofing, elevator replacements, and heating and plumbing repairs.

To start, these funds will be steered to the NYCHA developments with the most open work orders in each borough.

By getting funding to the buildings with the most open work orders, we can tackle the underlying conditions like leaky roofs that can lead to mold and peeling paint, or heating systems that falter on days like today, leaving residents literally out in the cold.

In 2015 in New York City this is unacceptable.

The Council will also take steps to give NYCHA residents themselves a voice in how public money is spent at their developments.

Participatory budgeting – or as we call it, PB – was launched in 2011, and I am proud to have been one of the first Members to embrace this democratic process where residents decide what community projects get funded.

Under this City Council, I am excited to say PB has thrived and today 24 council districts are participating.

Today, we’re proud to announce that the Council will provide new funding to start engaging residents at NYCHA developments in a robust expansion of the PB process.

We also want more people to be empowered to make these decisions.

So we are going to make participation in PB easier by meeting New Yorkers where they spend more and more of their time – on their phones, texting.

I invite you right now to text the word VOICE to 646-798-1623 to learn more about participatory budgeting.

Citizen empowerment is at the heart of what this Council is all about.

When people have a voice, they create brighter, safer and more engaged communities.

Hay que darle poder al pueblo.

We believe in giving power to the people, not keeping it in some back room.

We know, however, that all these plans can’t be effective if New York City does not remain safe.

That safety is ensured by the diverse men and women of the New York City Police Department.

There is no denying that we’ve faced challenging times these past few months.

Today we still mourn the loss of Detectives Liu and Ramos.

Their senseless murders left a gaping hole in the hearts of New York.

That’s because NYPD officers are our neighbors, our friends, our family and our loved ones.

They are part of the fabric of our City and essential to our success.

So when someone commits a violent act against our police officers, it is an act against all of us.

That’s why this Council has been proud to support the men and women of the NYPD by making their safety a priority.

Thanks to the City Council, NYPD officers will receive thousands of new bullet-resistant vests this year.

The Council also expanded our gun violence prevention programs to more neighborhoods. It’s a program that works and shows promising results.

We also understand that NYPD needs a higher headcount to carry out more community policing- that is why the Council fought for 1,000 new police officers last year and why we will continue to do so this year.

Thanks to Commissioner Bratton and the 34,000 Police Officers of the NYPD, New York City continues to be safe.

And the City has become safer even as we have dramatically reduced the unconstitutional application of stop and frisk.

It was unfair, it was discriminatory, and it was ineffective.

Indeed, many police officers themselves recognized its negative impact.

Going forward, we understand that the best way to build bridges is to work together – and right here in East Harlem that is happening every day.

Today, we are joined by NYPD Officers from the wonderful 23rd and 25th Precincts, as well as PSA 5.

Every day, these officers embrace this neighborhood, speak with New Yorkers, and work with its residents.

But they also listen, sometimes, we need to stop and listen to each other.

It is only when we listen that we can truly begin to understand one another.

Hay que ponerse en los zapatos de los demás.

We all come from different neighborhoods; have different backgrounds; have different skin colors; and speak different languages.

We also have different experiences, and we’re shaped by those.

We can’t ignore that.

But what unites us is where we live.

We live in New York City.

A City of collective experiences and endless dreams.

So we also must recognize that Eric Garner and Akai Gurley also lived here.

They had their dreams.

They had their experiences.

It is through listening; that we begin to put aside our own biases.

It is through listening that we can start to heal.

And it is only through listening, that we can gain a better understanding of one another.

New York’s collective experience has been messy at times, but it has always pivoted toward fairness and justice.

Together, we will keep striving to reach that higher ground.

To get there, we must seek to mend fences, build trust and put the “justice” back in our criminal justice system.

Justicia tardía no es justicia.

In this venture we are not alone: both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have taken steps towards criminal justice reform in recent months—notably Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to expand supervised pre-trial release and diversion programs, and Governor Cuomo’s call for raising the age of criminal responsibility.

But we can do more. We need to take a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform that ensures a fairer system, improves police community relations and addresses the fact that far too many of our young people – mostly low-income black and Latino males – are locked up at Rikers.

For instance, if you are accused of jumping a turnstile or committing other minor offenses in New York City, you may be locked up.

And if you can’t afford bail you will spend on average 15 days in jail.

The results are predictable: people lose their jobs, or their housing, and cannot take care of their children while they are in custody.

These are people who are accused of minor offenses and are still considered innocent in the eyes of the law.

This is not justice.

It also doesn’t make economic sense.

Whether it’s the $100,000 a year it costs to house someone on Rikers –or the public assistance programs many must access upon leaving – New Yorkers are paying this bill.

And let’s not forget, the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a scathing report,

Finding excessive force and violence at Rikers Island.

We cannot continue to lock up those accused of low level, non-violent offenses without recognizing the dire, long-term consequences to them and to our City.

These are voices we must uplift as well.

To fix this, we propose expanding the use of summonses and desk appearance tickets for minor charges instead of locking kids up.

Currently, New York City enforces many low-level offenses as criminal charges.

We need to change that.

Our efforts will require working in partnership with the NYPD and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to identify the right remedy for the right offenses.

And we must ensure that our court system has all the tools necessary to handle an increase in summonses, and that there are improved notification procedures and communication with defendants who need to show up to court.

PhotoWe will also look for areas where it makes more sense to impose a civil penalty, rather than a criminal one.

And because the overwhelming majority of those in jail are there because they can’t afford bail – often as little as $500 to $1000 dollars – we will work to create a Citywide bail fund.

Pilot programs with strict limitations have shown that bail funds are enormously successful – with an appearance rate in the 90th percentile – potentially saving the City millions in incarceration costs.

The time to reform our criminal justice system is now — and we must aggressively seize this opportunity.

Our goal is simple: make the system more just.

Jumping a turnstile at 16 should not mark you for the rest of your life.

We can achieve this; and we will do it together.

And finally, the Council will focus on improving educational outcomes as a pathway to equality and opportunity.

Improving educational outcomes starts with ensuring there is a healthy school climate, and that is why we are advocating for the reform of school discipline practices.

We will work with the Department of Education to increase the use of guidance interventions prior to suspensions and allocate funds for more peer mediation and student justice panels.

Removing a child from a classroom or school should be a last resort – not a first option.

As we reform these practices, we will make sure we’re equipped with the best data possible to track school safety —so we will pass legislation to amend the Student Safety Act.

Improving educational outcomes also means supporting teachers, building new schools, and reducing class size.

The New York City public school system is entitled to an awful lot of money — about $2 billion dollars from the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision.

We intend to fight for that money in Albany.

We also know that in a changing world, New York City must remain on the cutting edge.

To achieve this, we need the programs, training and tools to prepare students for 21st century jobs that meet the growing needs of City employers.

For starters, the Council will work with the Department of Education and Teacher’s College at Columbia University to infuse technology into 10 elementary and middle schools serving low-income students.

Because it isn’t enough to just have a computer- students and teachers have to know how to use it.

We will also collaborate with the Department of Education, the Partnership for New York City, and other business supporters to create new high-demand Career and Technical Education programs in high schools, including struggling schools.

And to link those students with hands-on work experience in our City’s businesses – both large and small.

Imagine what we could achieve if each of the over 100,000 CTE students in our public school system has internship opportunities in businesses across

the City.

We will increase access to higher paying career paths, improve the odds that students stay in school and graduate, assist local businesses and boost the City’s economy by providing more skilled workers for fast-growing fields.

We’re also going to elevate the sciences.

I am proud to announce that the City Council will team up with NASA to provide career and educational opportunities for New York City students and teachers.

Through creative and innovative programs, NASA will bring science into the classroom like never before.

Picture having real-time conversations with astronauts living on a space station,

or working with NASA scientists to support international climate change research – these are the possibilities for our young people.

Students will be connected to internships, fellowships and training programs through the Goddard Institute for Space Studies located right here in Manhattan,

so they can pursue in-demand STEM-related careers.

Also, we know that students need all the tools necessary to do their work, challenge their minds, and think big.

More than ever, students must have access to the best and most modern software.

Which is why I am thrilled to announce today that Microsoft will be providing free Microsoft Office software to all\New York City public school students, their families  and teachers.

They will be able to download this software on their home computers and other devices, including tablets and smart phones.

And teachers can take advantage of training, so they can use this software in the classroom.

And what’s more, students will be eligible to obtain industry-recognized certifications in Microsoft Office programs, such as Excel, which is a skill in high-demand, especially for many entry-level positions in business.

Yes, we are taking active steps to prepare New York City students to compete in the global workforce.

Thanks to this nearly half billion dollar benefit, we will close the software gap and put our students on the pathway to success in the

21st century.

This is a digital yellow brick road.

While the City has made strides over the past generation…

far too many have been left behind.

Which is why the vision we’ve laid out today is so important:

  • Defending human rights
  • Expanding access to justice
  • Supporting workers and family-friendly workplaces
  • Reducing burdens for small businesses
  • Improving public housing

Reforming our criminal justice system

Bringing more funding; innovative programming and technology to the classrooms

All of this will have a profound impact on the soul of this City.

Together, we can do it.

Así que manos a la obra, mi gente.

When I had the honor of being elected Speaker more than a year ago, I said that the Council will be unified in our common cause, delivering excellence for New Yorkers.

That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.

And while the state of our City is strong … the state of our City can always be better.

When I walk around my community every morning, I can’t help but feel this inexorable sense of optimism and of hope.

This community is where it is because of people like you, Ethel, and people like Dr. Antonia Pantoja.

It is their belief that we can always do better.

That we don’t settle for things as they are.

That is the attitude of New Yorkers.

Whether you live in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn or Manhattan,

we are never content in our place.

We are always looking forward to a better future; and we are never afraid to think big.

After all, thinking big is what led us to fight for this community center.

So this is no time for half-stepping, because too many people are counting on us.

Instead, we follow the examples of Vito Marcantonio and James Weldon Johnson. We will fight.  

For too long, many voices in New York have been marginalized, drowned out or forgotten.

But just because some could not hear them, did not mean they were not there.

Es hora de que todas las voces sean escuchadas!

It is time to make all voices heard!

Asegurarnos que todas las voces tengan una silla a la mesa!

It is time to make sure all voices have a seat at the table!

Y es tiempo que todas las voces sean empoderadas!

And it is time to make sure all voices are empowered.

Sí, Nueva York, vamos a levantar cada voz…tu voz! .

Yes, New York City, we will lift every voice…your voice!

Y, sí, lo haremos juntos.

And, yes … we will do it together.

Muchas gracias y pa’lante, siempre pa’lante.

THANK YOU!

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