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The Remarks of Speaker Sheldon Silver

The Downtown Lower Manhattan Association
and Association for a Better New York Breakfast

55 Wall Street, Manhattan
Friday, May 20, 2005 [8:30 a.m.]

Thank you, Bill, for another gracious and generous introduction.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for that warm reception and for allowing me this opportunity to further discuss the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan.

Bob Douglass. Bill Rudin. Carl Weisbrod. Mayor David Dinkins. Members of the Downtown Lower Manhattan Association. Members of the Association for a Better New York.

Distinguished Leaders. Ladies and Gentlemen.

My February 11th remarks to you may have been perceived as harsh or imperious. That was not my intention.

For reasons I spelled out that morning, I did intend my remarks to be critical - and constructively so - and if they opened some eyes, and if they achieved the action they were intended to achieve, then I did my job as an elected representative of Lower Manhattan.

Knowing me as you do, I trust that you can understand how deeply and personally invested I am in the future of this great American community.

As a state lawmaker - and as the Leader of the People’s House of our State Legislature - it is my duty to constructively criticize the actions of government when such criticism is due.

With that in mind, I am providing you with an update of the information contained in the Assembly report entitled, "The Lower Manhattan Economy After September 11th," which you received at that February breakfast.

This update, like the report, comes to the same conclusion: LOWER MANHATTAN NEEDS HELP.

We need effective and immediate leadership, and we need unwavering attention to our economy.

Let me add that it is also my duty to acknowledge when the executives of this City and State are doing a good job. There are some successes that I am pleased to highlight.

After indicating how important it is to Lower Manhattan that we eliminate the blight which is Fiterman Hall, I am pleased to announce that at my request, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has set a much accelerated timetable for the demolition and rebuilding of this sad reminder of September Eleventh.

Demolition and clean up will begin this coming October and should be completed by May of 2006, and the construction of the new Fiterman Hall is scheduled to be completed two years later, by May of 2008; ONE YEAR AHEAD OF THE PREVIOUS SCHEDULE.

The Governor’s decision directing the LMDC to commit the final $15 million needed for this $187 million project certainly eased any remaining concerns.

Working with the Mayor and Commissioner Kelly, we achieved a partial re-opening of Park Row. Finally, we can get those desperately-needed tourists and shoppers back into Chinatown.

Now, we must evaluate the impact of this partial re-opening and hopefully get this important vein of commerce completely open.

And, after a two-year struggle, in this year’s state budget I finally achieved the necessary vehicle for the establishment of a Chinatown Empire Zone.

For new businesses, the Empire Zone program creates a virtually tax-free environment. Existing businesses that create jobs receive a wage tax credit, sales tax exemptions, as well as a property tax credit paid for by the State of New York.

I am committed to working with the Mayor, the Senate Majority Leader and the Governor to get this new Empire Zone authorized by June of this year.

Speaking of successes, together with the Mayor, I was pleased to announce that a new Lower Manhattan elementary school will be located on the site of the NYU Downtown Hospital.

I am equally gratified that the Governor and our Congressional Delegation have joined me in promoting the JFK/Long Island Rail Link. We are united and forcefully expressing our support for this project on Capitol Hill.

Hopefully, the Federal Government will come through with the necessary investment. Until then, I will do everything I can to see that this project is completed.

Though I announced it in February at ABNY, let me again say how thrilled I am that Verizon is moving its headquarters to Lower Manhattan.

These are important successes.

Hopefully, they mark an awakening to the realization that all of our efforts together are needed if Lower Manhattan is going to be better than ever before.

If I come across to you as "impatient" for progress, I have reasons. I shared my concerns with you at the last breakfast, and I’m sure that we continue to share these concerns.

At the same time, we know that all true metropolitan New Yorkers are part of a culture that believes in setting the magnificent goal, chasing it down, making it real, moving that "New York Ideal" forward, and in the process moving the world forward.

We do what no one else believes is possible, because we approach each challenge with the same resolve, the same urgency, the same sense of patriotic duty with which those Operating Engineers and incredible laborers cleared away the rubble of Ground Zero in early record time; and in doing so, inspired a nation.

This is the way things are done in New York; we share a reputation for tenacity.

So, today, let me share with you some of my ideas; the ideas of someone who has lived in Lower Manhattan all his life.

Very simply, we need a comprehensive plan - a vision - for Lower Manhattan; not merely an economic strategy but more a Marshall Plan.

We need a plan that reflects our sense that rebuilding and revitalizing Lower Manhattan is a moral obligation.

Without initiating a debate about aesthetics, let me tell you what I believe the final design should reflect.

It should reflect the honor we feel for the heroes who gave their lives;

Our sympathy for the families of the victims;

And our recognition that the surrounding community has endured what few American communities have EVER had to endure.

Yes, security is absolutely critical as well, but the architecture must also send a message of faith.

A message of New York’s dignity and class;

That we’re striving to replace terror with hope;

That we’re striving to erase a single day of madness and hatred with an expression that the citizens of the world can live and work, play and pray together in this one place free of fear and intimidation.

Success requires that we reach out to attract businesses of every size, workers, residents, tourists, shoppers, diners, artists, entrepreneurs, and scientists here.

Success that we reach in to re-assure our neighbors and our colleagues that Lower Manhattan IS going to be better than ever before.

This challenge that we share is like nothing this State - or any state - has ever had to accept before.

The progress we’ve seen thus far has occurred thanks to significant residential incentives; incentives that I - and others in this room - fought to obtain for this City.

Now, together, we target our efforts on restoring Lower Manhattan’s commercial prowess.

ABOVE ALL ELSE, I want Downtown to regain its stature as a world-class business center.

Before terrorists tore apart the landscape, Lower Manhattan was the Nation’s third largest central business district. It is now Number Four.

We must recapture the power and the magic of Lower Manhattan, and restore it to its rightful place as the financial and business capital of the world.


By going after mega-corporations, mid-sized firms, small businesses and financial houses and convincing them to relocate here in Downtown.

By building more commercial space, more retail space, more research facilities, more schools, more libraries, more community centers.

This historic community must be reborn as the place where the immigrants from developing nations come freely to be part of the new technological age, and share their vibrancy with our global community.

And this global community should be a 24-hour-a-day community; a symphony of families, working people, schools and businesses, where - as I told you last time - 35.5 percent of the people who live in my Assembly District, WALK TO WORK!

We must not lose that unique character!

Realizing this vision is an obligation we - and all Americans - share.

NO other building project can take a higher priority.

It is imperative that Goldman Sachs go forward with building and relocating opposite Ground Zero.

I have been engaged in active conversations with that company, and am doing everything possible to get them to reconsider and relocate their headquarters here in Downtown.

Goldman Sachs has designed a wonderful building, and chosen a great location. Their presence is the linchpin to our success.

We must resolve whatever concerns they might have.

I urge the Governor and the Mayor to join in pulling out all of the stops in order to bring Goldman Sachs back to Lower Manhattan.

One important reason why companies such as Goldman Sachs should relocate to Lower Manhattan is that not only are we the telecommunications capital of the world, we are building a cutting edge wireless network that will guarantee accessibility to - and the security of - data and voice transmission.

We are building a network that will ensure our financial industry has the finest telecommunications system available anywhere in the world today.

Not long ago, Governor Pataki and I committed $10 million to establish this wireless redundancy network in Lower Manhattan. This project continues to be held up in the Empire State Development Corporation despite demands from the City and its business community to move forward with the project.

Promises must be kept. Let’s get this project up and running by the end of this year!

Advancing the development of the World Trade Center site will require significant investment.

Allow me to make some recommendations.

First, we must insist that all of the remaining $3.5 billion of commercial Liberty Bond funds be used for developing Ground Zero.

There is still $300 million dollars in uncommitted payments owed to the State of New York through the Year 2021 from the Port Authority. Let’s direct these funds to Lower Manhattan development and incentives.

In addition, the Authority continues to collect $120 million in annual rent for the World Trade Center. Portions of these resources could be returned for development and incentives.

And as we proceed with development of the World Trade Center site, let’s expedite construction on all parts of the Ground Zero site.

While plans for the Memorial are progressing quickly and the Freedom Tower is being redesigned, let’s begin construction of the buildings on the Church Street Corridor.

Let’s build the infrastructure we need in the southeast corner so that retail operations can get under way. Let’s begin designing buildings.

This is critical, and not merely because the new construction will draw in new business.

Building the Church Street corridor will stabilize the existing community and it will send a message to our existing retail and commercial businesses that progress is coming, and that staying in Lower Manhattan is a smart business decision.

In the 1970s, public offices occupied two million square feet of the World Trade Center.

As a freshman Assembly member, I occupied Room 5489 of the World Trade Center as a district office.

I believe that this State has a solemn obligation to make that same kind of commitment again.

With that in mind, I am calling upon the Port Authority, state agencies, and our elected leaders to LEASE A TOWER!

As a demonstration of good faith, I announce to you today, I will move the Speaker’s Office - my office - back to the World Trade Center site.

I am asking the Governor, the State Attorney General and the State Comptroller to do the same.


That’s what we can do, but more is needed.

Considering that Larry Silverstein is still without a single tenant - other than himself - for World Trade Center Seven, which is almost ready to be occupied, there’s two significant actions I believe we MUST take:

First, I am recommending the institution of a five-dollar-per-square-foot incentive for the first 750,000 square feet of commercial space leased anywhere on the World Trade Center Site.

Second, I am recommending the institution of a five-dollar-per-square-foot benefit for the first 500,000 square feet leased at World Trade Center Seven.

Complementing those recommendations, I am pleased to announce that Larry Silverstein - to whom I spoke about this - has agreed to match these incentives.

Incentives such as these are critical if we are going to attract and retain business, encourage commercial development and job creation in Lower Manhattan. It is also critical, therefore, that all available incentives be directed to rebuilding and revitalizing Lower Manhattan.

Until we honor our obligation to Lower Manhattan, NO public incentives for commercial development should be provided for the Hudson Yards.

Remember, Lower Manhattan is still short 67,000 jobs.

That’s 67,000 diners NOT dining in our restaurants.

That’s 67,000 shoppers NOT shopping in our retail outlets.

That’s 67,000 customers NOT banking in our banks.

Filling this hole requires that the State and City provide significant commercial incentives as quickly as possible, and that those incentives be more beneficial the closer and the sooner you relocate to Ground Zero.

I have been talking with the Mayor about providing significant grants for job creation and retention, and for small business attraction and retention; grants that are similar to what the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Empire State Development Corporation provided immediately after September Eleventh.

To encourage commercial retention, we must continue to provide low-cost power as an incentive for commercial retention and relocation in Lower Manhattan.

We must extend the Lower Manhattan Energy Program, as well as the Energy Cost Savings Program.

As contracts are ending, the low-cost power allocated to the Port Authority MUST be continued and be provided for businesses in the Ground Zero and Downtown areas.

To encourage commercial development, we must eliminate the Commercial Rent Tax in Lower Manhattan immediately for all Ground Zero tenants.

In addition, over the next five years, we must phase-out this tax for the rest of Lower Manhattan.

We must modify "REAP"- to provide an incentive for those firms that relocate to Lower Manhattan, and we must eliminate the current benefit that is provided to businesses moving from Lower Manhattan.

It’s also time that we allowed the tax incentives that support the transformation of viable commercial buildings to residential units, to expire on June 30, 2006.

These are some of the components that should be included in a comprehensive plan for Lower Manhattan.

I know this will come as no surprise to you, but I will be monitoring the progress that takes place in Lower Manhattan.

I’ll say it again, Lower Manhattan needs all levels of government to work in partnership.

Lower Manhattan needs our federal, our state and city governments to recognize that our recovery is PRIORITY ONE in this City and State.

We need effective and consistent leadership.

We cannot continue to endure "STARTS" and "STOPS."

We must get the ball rolling and keep it rolling.

Our vision may take a lifetime to realize. We have to remember that because we will be judged by our children, and our children’s children.

Four generations of Silvers have lived in Lower Manhattan and called it home.

If it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to think that fifty years from now, there will still be Silvers living in Lower Manhattan, because together we did the hard work and built a better Lower Manhattan than any previous generation has ever known.

I say this with the utmost sincerity, I do not care who takes the credit when the work is done.

If our vision of Lower Manhattan is realized, I will be the first to come to breakfast and say with a full heart: GOOD JOB, GOVERNOR! GOOD JOB, MISTER MAYOR!

Of course, I will always say, GOOD JOB, MADELYN WILS, because her advocacy for Lower Manhattan is without parallel.

I close with the words of the historian Kenneth T. Jackson, that appear in Ric Burns’ and James Sanders’ great history of New York:

"Americans need New York because New York is one of the few places in the country that allows differences to be celebrated, that allows people to reach their full potential. And that’s - in a sense - what drives civilization, what drives freedom, what moves us forward, and what is really the hope of the future."

I have offered you my ideas. Now, I offer you, the Governor and the Mayor, my hands in partnership.

The magnificent goal is within our reach.

Let us reach for it together, for ourselves and for the future.

New York State Assembly
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