Remarks by Speaker Sheldon Silver
PACB Decision Press Conference
State Capitol, Albany, NY
New Yorkers from border to border have been bombarded with ads and opinions "for" and "against" construction of a stadium worthy of the Olympics.
In truth, New Yorkers are being distracted by the hype.
At a time when New Yorkers should be working together in the spirit of patriotic duty to rebuild Ground Zero and revitalize a devastated Lower Manhattan, arguments are being made that pit New Yorkers - one against another - in a highly confusing battle over which part of Manhattan should take precedence when it comes to development and building incentives.
It is imperative that all New Yorkers see this battle for what it truly is.
The resolution that will be put before the PACB this afternoon is not about the Olympics.
The Olympic Games are being used in an attempt to force the PACB into approving a multi-billion-dollar project that includes:
The 2012 Summer Games are being used as a shield to hide another goal: to shift the financial and business capital of the world out of Lower Manhattan and over to the West Side.
With the promise of jobs and prosperity, too many New Yorkers have fallen for the relentless and hysterical warnings that we will lose out on our bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics unless - blindly and wholeheartedly - we commit to building this stadium, and this particular stadium only!
Yet, the I.O.C.'s own report - issued this morning - does not specifically say that we must commit to building this stadium today.
Considering the challenges already facing the City and the State of New York, this plan, at best, is premature.
Remember what happened at Ground Zero. Go back and read all of the defiant rhetoric about how we were going to rebuild Lower Manhattan bigger and better as a message to the terrorists.
Look at that site, consider today's vote, and ask yourselves what is that message now?
Ask the Governor, ask the Mayor, how they justify building 24 million square feet of commercial office space on the West Side; how they justify the extensive incentives they are providing in the attempt to attract businesses there in competition with Lower Manhattan.
Developing the West Side and ignoring Lower Manhattan: this is what the PACB vote is really about.
Again, this is not about the Olympics.
For me, this fight is about restoring New York City's soul.
It's about honoring the sacrifices made on September Eleventh.
It's about a moral obligation each and every one of us committed to when we saw those towers go down.
For me, it's about lifting my community, my hometown, my constituents from a kind of devastation never before experienced in the United States of America.
Am I supposed to sell out the community I have fought for and represented for more than a quarter of a century?
Am I supposed to turn my back on Lower Manhattan as it struggles to recover?
For what? A stadium? For the hope of bringing the Olympics to New York City?
And to those who say, "what about the jobs," let me point out that the Mayor and the Governor have had almost four years to establish a construction schedule for Lower Manhattan.
If they would simply honor the commitments they made in the aftermath of the attacks; if they would make rebuilding Lower Manhattan the top priority it ought to be, there would be more jobs than could be filled with the available construction workers.
Please keep in mind that the "Summer Games" are still seven years away.
Time is on our side.
Time, however,- is not on the side of our school children.
Let's not forget, they too, are participants in a global competition; a far more important competition.
Even though our school children won in court, they are still not receiving the educational resources needed to take "the gold" in the worldwide marathon for the jobs of the future.
Time is not on Lower Manhattan's side.
The Lower Manhattan economy, which lost 13.4 million square feet of office space, lost more than $10.8 billion in wages, and is still missing more than 67,000 jobs, and it continues to falter.
As the business and financial capital of the world, we too, are engaged in an international competition to maintain America's economic supremacy.
And speaking of time, can any responsible New Yorker say with sincerity that we should put off the repairs to - and expansion of - our mass transit system?
Our ability to carry workers and move goods by way of a safe, efficient transportation infrastructure is critical to the economy of Metropolitan New York.
The question is not whether New York City should host the Olympics.
The question is not whether New York City should host a Super Bowl or eight Jet home games every season.
The question is, what do we address first, our moral obligations or our ambitions?
Considering our constitutional obligation to provide each and every child with a sound, basic education, our moral obligation to rebuild and revitalize Lower Manhattan, and our public obligation to provide a safe, affordable and efficient mass transit system, I cannot in good conscience cast my vote in support of the proposal before us today.
Let there be no question: I'm not suggesting that West Side development should never happen.
Neither am I opposed to construction of a stadium in New York City, so long as we're addressing our current obligations.
Any project that creates jobs and strengthens New York without unduly and unfairly burdening the taxpayers is a project I support so long as New Yorkers know the truth.
My record as a public servant proves that, just as it proves undeniably my commitment to New York City.
If the Mayor and the Governor are going to provide impassioned leadership; if they are going to invest our scarce resources in the future of our City and our State, then I believe New Yorkers are best served when we honor our duties and our obligations first.
Remember the Olympic motto: CITIUS … ALTIUS … FORTIUS.
In English that means: FASTER … HIGHER … STRONGER; the same words that were promised to Lower Manhattan nearly four years ago.
Let the true Olympic spirit guide us, both in the honoring of our duties and in the pursuit of our ambitions.
Then, we will have done the job we were elected to do, and the triumph will belong to all New Yorkers.
New York State Assembly
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