NYS Seal

The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

The Association For A Better New York

The Ritz Carlton Battery Park
2 West St., Manhattan

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Thank you, Bill (Rudin), for that generous introduction.

Bill Rudin. Distinguished Guests. Members of the Association for a Better New York.

Good morning.

Let me begin my remarks with an expression of heartfelt gratitude to Bill Rudin and to this honorable Association for your graciousness in once again providing me a forum to express my views regarding the future of Lower Manhattan.

When I speak to you, I am speaking for a historic community that I cherish, for the families, for the schools and the civic groups, for the artists and the entrepreneurs, for the small businesses and the major financial houses.

I speak to you for this community and as part of this community.

My words and my actions are neither exaggerated nor constrained by ambition.

Many long to see Lower Manhattan rise from the ashes of September 11th, but none more than I do.

After all, five generations of Silvers have called Lower Manhattan home, from my grandparents to my grandchildren.

I'd like to think that fifty years from now, there will still be Silvers living here because together, we made Lower Manhattan a better, safer, healthier and more prosperous place to live, work, and raise a family.

With that as my goal, I came to you on February 11th of 2005, and presented you with the Assembly's critical analysis of the discouraging state of Lower Manhattan's economy.

On May 20th of 2005, as Bill said, I presented you with a "Marshall Plan" for Lower Manhattan.

With your indulgence, this morning, I will share my perspectives of Lower Manhattan as we approach a new year and a new administration in Albany.

In the "big picture" of rebuilding, my role has remained constant: to critique the process, to offer ideas that spur progress, and to ensure that Lower Manhattan's needs - from the smallest to the largest - are addressed at all levels of government.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Since September 11th, the reconstruction and revitalization of Lower Manhattan are and always have been our moral obligation.

Therefore, they must always be the top priority of our City, State and Federal Government.

Great things are happening in Lower Manhattan.

Analysis conducted by my staff and others indicate an economic recovery which is expected to continue is happening now.

In fact, Lower Manhattan's private employment grew 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2006.

That's 13,450 more jobs than we had in the first quarter of last year.

That's a growth rate stronger than Manhattan's, stronger than the City's, stronger than the State's, and stronger than the national rate of private employment growth for the same period.

This is not entirely unexpected.

After the last ABNY presentation I made - working with the Mayor - we successfully negotiated agreements in Albany and with the City for:

  • The commercial rent tax eliminations (CRT);
  • The sales tax exemption;
  • Modifications to the REAP program;
  • And the World Trade Center Rent Reductions.

In fact, all of the rent credits for Seven World Trade, as Larry Silverstein will tell you, have been allocated. But don't worry - there are rent credits still available for World Trade Center Two, Three and Four, and for the Freedom Tower - and Larry Silverstein is here today.

All of these incentives were included in the Marshall Plan I presented and all of them have contributed significantly to the resurgence of Lower Manhattan's economy.

Since the passage of the CRT Elimination, 114 firms in Lower Manhattan are participating in the program and are leasing 1.2 million square feet of space.

According to a report released by the Firm of Jones Lang LaSalle, the tax incentive programs have had a substantial impact on the bottom line of companies that relocate to Lower Manhattan.

A key priority of the Lower Manhattan Marshall Plan was the Church Street Corridor.

Construction of the Corridor will stabilize the surrounding community and assure existing retail and commercial firms that remaining in Lower Manhattan is a sound business decision.

At the May 2005 breakfast, I emphasized that Church Street is my top priority. I called upon the Port Authority to build the infrastructure needed in the southeast corner so that retail operations can get under way.

In response, we now have designs that address the needs of the community.

Plans for the Church Street Corridor include more than a half-million feet of retail space. That's twenty percent more than existed there prior to September Eleventh.

In addition, more than half of the planned retail space is above grade, ensuring that Downtown will remain an attractive, 24-hour-a-day, residential and business community.

When construction is complete, the Church Street Corridor will be an enormous victory for Lower Manhattan.

Speaking of victories, last year we urged the City and the State to allocate all of the remaining Liberty Bond money to Lower Manhattan. And, I am pleased that the Mayor of this City and the Governor of this state complied with that request and that all of the money is committed to Downtown.

Certainly, the commitments made by Goldman Sachs and Verizon were major victories for Lower Manhattan, as was construction of Larry Silverstein's Seven World Trade.

It was gratifying to hear that Moody's Investor Service has taken 600,000 square feet in Seven World Trade; thereby expanding their operations in New York.

This beautiful, state-of-the-art business facility is also home to Darby and Darby, Ameriprise, the New York Academy of Science, and the national headquarters of Mansueto Ventures - publisher of "INC," and "Fast Company."

This mix of tenants demonstrates the caliber and the diversity of companies that are being attracted Downtown.

It was the commitment to maintaining Lower Manhattan's status as the financial and business capital of the world, and our desire to attract exciting, new companies to Lower Manhattan, that prompted the new designs for World Trade Center Two, Three and Four.

Let me note here that, included in the design of both Tower 2 and Tower 3 are 60,000 square-foot trading floors - facilities you can only find at Goldman Sachs, or at the Bank of America in Midtown.

There are few symbols of recovery that are more inspiring than the construction of a school.

I am proud to say that we were able to secure a new "K through 8" public school for Lower Manhattan.

Known as the Beekman School, it will occupy five floors on a site close to New York Downtown Hospital.

I am also proud that the Governor, the Attorney General, the State Comptroller, and the Port Authority have all answered the call, and are committed to joining me in taking space at the World Trade Center.

And while I am on the subject of "positives," in 2004, I was glad to shepherd through the legislature "the Coordinated Construction Act" for Lower Manhattan to streamline procurement, speed up rebuilding, and ensure that neighborhood streets and sidewalks are not ripped up over and over and over again.

Let me take a moment here to commend the leader of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, Charles Maikish, for the great job he is doing, and for keeping the community regularly apprised of construction schedules and transportation delays.

Keep up the good work, Charlie.

If you attended the first two ABNY breakfasts at which I spoke, you know that I had two primary criticisms.

One, that there was no comprehensive plan for rebuilding and revitalizing Lower Manhattan.

Two, that there was no leadership.

It occurs to me, that in the rush to lay the Freedom Tower cornerstone, in the rush for that "photo op," we lost our focus, our sense of urgency, our obligation.

Year after year, announcement after announcement: the cornerstone, Fiterman Hall, the Deutsche Bank Building, the Bathtub, each bit of good news we received ultimately unraveled.

The delays do not stop here.

The Fulton Street Transit project is $94 million over budget and 18 months behind schedule. It is now slated to be finished in the Year 2009.

The South Ferry Terminal project is $52 million over budget.

The wireless redundancy system that I championed and funded, a component of the Marshall Plan, is still at least six months away, maybe more.

The Chinatown/Lower East Side Empire Zone - another component of the Marshall Plan - a Zone I fought for is still on hold even though our apparel industry is struggling and our immigrant workers are losing their jobs.

Not a single Empire Zone benefit provided. Not a single Empire Zone business designated.

In April of this year, it was announced that a conceptual agreement had been reached between the Port Authority and Larry Silverstein, and its weaknesses became apparent at the public hearing I held on May 18th.

Then, a few weeks ago, Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority approved a new, more formal framework for rebuilding Ground Zero, a framework that includes timetables and penalties.

I am hopeful, but I'm concerned that we may lose focus again.

Just as we're getting Lower Manhattan up and running, the City is shifting its attention to the West Side and away from our Downtown goal.

Let me be clear about the Hudson Yards.

I support and voted for construction of the Convention Center.

I support construction of the Moynihan Station in its fullest.

I support West Side Development.

We have done the analysis. Cushman and Wakefield has done the analysis.

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.

Remember, we're still talking about an American city that is struggling to recover from a massive terrorist attack.

We have an extraordinary, moral and national obligation to rebuild Lower Manhattan, a major historic gateway to the American Dream.

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

And right now, more than five years after the tragedy, there is still a huge hole in the heart of Lower Manhattan!

I'm sorry, I know that no one wants to hear it, but it's true.

I go by and see it every day that I'm in the city!

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a cost of delay, not the least of which is the loss of public trust.

We must not lose focus. We must not lose sight of the facts.

While the Lower Manhattan economy is showing significant signs of recovery, the fact is that five years later, Lower Manhattan has 47,000 less jobs than we had in August of 2001!

Our analysis shows that the cumulative impact of these endless construction delays has cost Lower Manhattan tens of billions of dollars.

There is one additional cost; one that is more than a matter of shifting timetables and lost opportunity.

There is the gross misjudgment by the Environmental Protection Agency that misled first responders, local residents, construction workers, and students into believing that Lower Manhattan's air was safe immediately following the collapse of the Towers.

As if September 11th wasn't enough to endure, now our heroes are facing health complications caused by the "World Trade Center Cough." Others are facing the "World Trade Center Cancer."

Since no American city has ever experienced a similar attack, to some degree, we may be forgiven for an imperfect rebuilding process. But we will not be forgiven if we do not take immediate responsibility for the innocent victims of the EPA's incompetence.

This is where we are now.

Thinking back to September 11th, I see us crafting yet another "Tale of Two Cities."

One New York, unified, courageous, dedicated, standing up to unspeakable sorrow and danger, facing a daunting clean up and recovery effort, and completing the job in record time.

The Second New York, in disarray, leaders bickering , finger pointing, making hasty announcements, projects delayed, wasted opportunities, heroes sickened by a health crisis that could have been averted.

We cannot undo the errors that have already been committed.

We can, however, change the course we're on.

We can recommit ourselves to the principles of the Marshall Plan that has yet to be fully implemented.

We must stay on top of the timetables to ensure that there are no more delays.

No more delays! No more empty promises! No more false hopes!

Because so much of the rebuilding depends upon it, the "bath tub" must be completed on time. The Church Street Corridor must proceed without delay.

We must bring pressure to bear on those insurance companies that are holding back proceeds.

We must safely deconstruct the Deutsche Bank Building and Fiterman Hall following an appropriate public process to ensure all environmental safeguards are in place.

The incentives provided in the Lower Manhattan Marshall Plan must be kept in place to correspond with changing construction timetables.

To ensure maximum utilization of the program as intended, I propose to extend the CRT Elimination, the sales tax exemption, and the Lower Manhattan Revitalization Program for an additional three years.

I propose to extend the existing REAP program, and provide eligibility parity between Lower Manhattan and the outer-borough REAP.

I propose to extend the Lower Manhattan Energy Program, and the reauthorization of the Power Authority's low-cost energy distribution program for businesses in the Ground Zero and Downtown areas.

There are also projects that must be advanced which are not included in the Marshall Plan.

Transportation infrastructure is a critical component of the economic vitality of an urban community.

As we move forward, there are several system expansion projects that also must be done if the City and the region are to grow and prosper.

Without these projects, Downtown and the financial capital of the world will be threatened.

In establishing our priorities we must maintain the MTA's commitment to the Second Avenue Subway, the Long Island Railroad eastside access to Grand Central Station, and direct access to JFK, Nassau and Suffolk Counties from Downtown Manhattan.

We must protect the capital plan of the MTA that announces and funds those priorities.

If the City believes that the extension of the number 7 subway to 34th Street and 11th Avenue is a priority, it should make it clear that no diversion of MTA resources to that extension will be required and that no additional MTA burden as it will be a surprise to be revealed later.

As I said at the beginning, I speak for the residents and the businesses of Lower Manhattan.

We need greater community outreach on all of the issues encompassed in rebuilding Lower Manhattan.

It is imperative that we open up Park Row. Chinatown will never be fully restored unless there is east/west access through this vital thoroughfare.

With more people moving to Lower Manhattan, we need more schools, more libraries, and more community centers.

We need to protect the history and culture of this 24-hour-a-day community, where 35.5 percent of the people who live and work in my Assembly District, walk to work!

Most of all, we must accept our responsibility to deal with the long-term health crisis brought on by September Eleventh.

In every way possible, we must assist those first responders who served at Ground Zero and are facing ever more complicated health issues.

We must make screening available to all Lower Manhattan residents and students, monitor their health, and keep them informed.

While I believe that the City's recently announced program is a good start, I believe we can work together to make it better.

People should be able to go to facilities in their communities that they trust.

More hospitals must be added to the current Bellevue Hospital program, such as New York Downtown Hospital, which treated many of the victims on that horrible day.

We need, and the City must establish, a greater education and public outreach program so that doctors can identify World Trade Center symptoms, and so that as many potential victims are identified as possible.

We need a Program to fast-track those who qualify for Medicaid so that they can access services for World Trade Center-related illnesses.

And because September Eleventh was an attack on America, I am calling upon the Federal Government to cover the full cost of treating our casualties of this war against terrorism.

September 11th, 2001, was a defining moment in history.

What we endured will be taught in schools around the globe for generations to come. Young architects and urban planners will study the rebuilding process, as they prepare to create the cities of the future.

For right now, the story of Lower Manhattan, and our stewardship of it, is without an ending. We still have a chance to honor America and ourselves by committing to unity and thoughtfulness.

I have discussed Lower Manhattan's future extensively with our Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer - the man who in roughly 88 days, 15 hours, and 30 minutes (NOT THAT I'M COUNTING) will be New York's next governor.

We share the same concerns, and I know that together, we will provide the leadership that will honor the moral obligation to Lower Manhattan, and bring to fruition the vision we share for our future.

As for our place in history, I close with the words of President John F. Kennedy:

"And when, at some future date, the high court of history sits in judgment of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

First, were we truly people of courage?
Second, were we truly people of judgment?
Third, were we truly people of integrity?
Finally, were we truly people of dedication?"

I am dedicated to the rebirth of a Lower Manhattan that stands in defiance of those who despise liberty and democracy.

I know that we have the courage, the judgment, and the integrity to act as one in the fulfillment of this, our moral and foremost obligation.

Thank you.

Click here to view Speaker Silver's press release, Silver Provides Lower Manhattan Economic Recovery Update

Click here to view the report, The Lower Manhattan Economy

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