|Sunday, February 8, 2004
BOROUGH PRESIDENT MARTY MARKOWITZ'S
2004 STATE OF THE BOROUGH ADDRESS
Thank you Chuck.
I also want to thank Edward R. Murrow High School for hosting this event today, especially principal Saul Bruckner, who has been a tireless model for the right way to educate our children since this school opened in 1974.
As you can see from the postcards we're handing out, today I'm going to talk with you about r-e-s-p-e-c-t. You're going to find out what it means to me – and to Brooklyn – because 2004 is going to be the year respect becomes Brooklyn's attitude.
Two years ago I entered office with the promise that Brooklyn would never take a back seat to anywhere else – and that we should be viewed as a city in our own right, just like before 1898.
Today, we are witnessing major growth in nearly every corner of the borough and in nearly every sector of our economy. Just look around on our streets, in our stores and at our businesses. It's a renewal that's long overdue, and in many ways it's nothing less than a renaissance, Brooklyn-style.
We are redefining the borough we call home with an attitude of respect for all who live here -- and we're making it the urban center of America, setting trends that are catching on all over the world.
Because Brooklyn today is America tomorrow.
In short, we are getting our respect!
Last August 14th, I was preparing a surprise for Brooklyn. Julio Iglesias was going to make his first ever Brooklyn appearance at my Coney Island concert series that evening.
But Brooklyn and most of the northeast got another surprise that hot, muggy day – the Blackout of '03.
There was a time not so long ago when a blackout put fear into the hearts of New Yorkers. But as Ii stood on the Brooklyn Bridge for seven hours welcoming residents back home, I saw and heard and felt the spirit of Brooklyn – and so did the people of Brooklyn.
Because the real surprise that day was how the spirit transformed the borough.
Neighbors helping each other, getting to know each other, communities growing closer together. And of course there was a party on many, many blocks.
We all witnessed the real power of Brooklyn that day: the community and brotherhood and sisterhood that bonds all of us together.
When I took office, I said I would boost respect and pride among fellow Brooklynites – for ourselves, for each other, for our children and for our environment.
I said I would help generate a positive national and international reputation for the things that we already know make Brooklyn great.
The Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center at Borough Hall is having its grand opening four days from now, which is a giant step toward spreading the news that Brooklyn is as close to the promised land as you can get.
When I was in my 20s, "making it" for some Brooklynites meant moving to Manhattan. Today, kids in their 20s in Manhattan move to Brooklyn to "make it."
Showcasing Brooklyn's rich natural and architectural beauty, its culture, its art scene, its restaurants and its history is about bringing more tourists here.
Because that means more dollars for Brooklyn businesses, which means expansion, which means more jobs, which means the quality of life in Brooklyn goes up. That's what tourism will do for Brooklyn.
I am pleased to say that for the first time ever, New York City and Company, the city's tourism bureau, is holding its annual meeting outside Manhattan, later this week at our Brooklyn Marriott.
Which makes sense, because we are the only inner borough in New York City. Think about it: Brooklyn is the only borough from which you have to pass through another borough in order to leave the city. Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island – you're the outer boroughs!
Manhattanites have been crossing the bridge to eat at Peter Luger's and the River Café for years. But now New Yorkers from all over are coming to dine on Smith Street, Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, Brighton Beach Avenue, Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay, Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, and so many more.
And this year, The Grocery, on Smith Street, was named one of the top 10 restaurants in all of New York City by the Zagat Guide.
Even though the outer boroughs have started to discover how much more quality and value our restaurants have, they still have no idea about places in other parts of Brooklyn, where equally good food can be found. Places like the Mill Basin Kosher Delicatessen, where Jordan Schachner and his father Mark's pastrami sandwiches define kosher deli.
Where else but in Brooklyn can you sample world-class paintings by Erte and Lichtenstein while sampling New York's best pastrami sandwich with Russian dressing? I swear the energy your brain uses thinking about the art cancels out all the calories.
So it's my pleasure to welcome Jordan Schachner from the Mill Basin Kosher Delicatessen.
It really is the best -- believe me, I've tried it more times than I'll admit to my wife Jamie.
Restaurants represent an important growth sector in Brooklyn's economy. So guess which inner borough is about to have its first restaurant week? Stay tuned.
The world is starting to understand that something special and unique is happening in Brooklyn. And nowhere is that truer than in our artistic community, which grows larger and more vibrant every day.
When people come to New York to make it in the arts in the year 2004 -- they come to Brooklyn.
Neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, DUMBO, Fort Greene, Cobble Hill, Park Slope and Red Hook are where the culture and art legends of tomorrow are working today.
I am honored to have one of those legends in the making here with us. The distinguished Brooklyn-born author of the best-selling novels "Motherless Brooklyn" and "The Fortress of Solitude" -- both of which are set right here in Brooklyn.
Ladies and gentlemen -- Boerum Hill's Jonathan Lethem!
Brooklyn also has major cultural institutions to rival any city in America, many of which are preparing for an increase in visitors.
The Brooklyn Museum's new entrance will be ready in April, revealing its truly grand style.
And an excellent upcoming exhibit there will showcase the finest artists living and working in Brooklyn today.
The four historic houses of the Weeksville Society will soon be fully restored for the first time in its 30-year history.
Along with a new education building, this museum will become one of the most important African-American cultural sites in America.
Later this year, the first Jewish Children's Museum in America will open in Crown Heights, giving children of all backgrounds a deeper understanding of the rich history and heritage of the Jewish people.
A couple of cultural treasures also reopened last year. The newly renovated Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn.
And the Brooklyn Historical Society, which opens a door into Brooklyn's past while guiding us into our future.
And finally, the New York Aquarium is putting the finishing touches on an exciting renovation that will be a key component of our new vision for Coney Island.
Thanks to the Coney Island development corporation – which was formed under the leadership of City Council Member Domenic Recchia, along with my office and the Mayor -- From the Aquarium to Seagate, we're ushering Coney into the 21st century as a year-round entertainment facility for families from all over the world.
Everyone knows we have the Cyclones at Keyspan Park – who crushed the Yankees from our southwestern suburb of Staten Island last year.
But I also have big plans for Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower -- also known as the Parachute Jump. And of course we still have the greatest urban beaches in America.
With construction on the new Stillwell Avenue terminal nearing completion, Coney Island will be making history again.
Thirty years ago, if someone told you cruise ships would one day dock at the foot of Atlantic Avenue, you would have said, "Yeah, and Marlon Brando is still working on the waterfront."
Soon – fingers crossed – Atlantic Avenue will be the site of a new cruise line terminal -- that's how much things have improved in Brooklyn.
Just think: Brooklynites will be able to throw their luggage on a ship, and before they know it arrive in the Caribbean or England. And cruise tourists will begin their visits in Brooklyn by taking a day trip to Coney Island or admiring our many historic neighborhoods.
Because you can visit the world – and stay in Brooklyn.
And soon -- tourists will experience Brooklyn's long-standing reputation for being reserved, subtle and polite.
A lot of people don't realize it, but Brooklyn was Hollywood before Hollywood was Hollywood. In fact, many of the first American feature films were produced right down the street from here, at Vitagraph Studios, at the corner of Locust Avenue and East 15th street, where a girls yeshiva is now.
The reason I mention this is because -- almost a century later -- Brooklyn is getting ready for its close up again. This year, a part of the Navy Yard will house Steiner Studios, which will be the largest film-production facility on the east coast – I call it Hollywood East.
So many great films have been set in Brooklyn – "Do the Right thing" and Woody Allen's "Radio Days" and "As Good As It Gets" and "Smoke" and "Moonstruck" and "The French Connection" and "Once Upon a Time in America" and "Goodfellas."
And so many stars have called Brooklyn home – Jennifer Connelly, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Barbra Streisand, Mary Tyler Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, and the late Gregory Hines.
But when Steiner Studios opens, these great films can actually be produced here, where they belong!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot.
There's one other little project that's coming to Brooklyn.
The borough of Kings is about to get its crown back.
Brooklyn needs this arena because Brooklyn's best -- like the Lincoln High School team -- deserve a place in Brooklyn where they can compete at the highest levels, and watch the stars of the game.
Just as the Dodgers thrilled Brooklynites in the first half of the 20th century, the Nets will be the team that unites us in the 21st.
It's a moment in our history that future generations are going to look back on as a turning point, and they're going to thank us for making it happen!
If everything goes according to plan, in a few years we will bring a new center of life to the heart of this borough.
I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his enthusiastic support of this project – it couldn't have happened without you, Mayor. And thank you to Governor Pataki.
I will of course make sure that this is the best possible project for all Brooklynites, including those in the immediate neighborhood. I will do everything in my power to make sure that as few people as possible will be displaced -- that any negative impacts are minimized -- and most importantly that they are treated with dignity and respect.
For 26 years, I have kept my promises to Brooklynites.
And I will keep this one too.
This project must be a great resource for the entire neighborhood -- and for the entire borough.
The world-class arena and surrounding area will be designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry – and will include:
4400 units of new housing – up to half of which will be at below-market rates for middle and moderate income households – which we desperately need.
Many new businesses and stores, which will create thousands of new, much needed jobs.
Six acres of public park land.
And even a skating rink on top of the arena.
And we're going to make sure that those who have missed out on construction and contracting opportunities in the past – especially women and minority owned businesses -- have their rightful place at the starting gate for this project -- and aren't just watching the race.
Above all, the Brooklyn-wide pride for a top basketball team – which is the urban sport – will bring all of our neighborhoods and cultures even closer together.
And that is the strawberries on the Junior's cheesecake. That's the sugar on the cannoli from Mona Lisa Pastry Shop. And that's the whipped cream on Aunt Butchie's chocolate mousse.
Only in Brooklyn.
As good as Brooklyn is, there are still areas that cry out for respect and attention.
My Task Force On Fiscal Equity In State And Local Policy – which I formed with Assemblymember Jim Brennan -- is focusing on three core issues: the auto-insurance crisis, overcrowded schools and the chronic under-funding of our hospitals and health-care providers.
Assemblymember Brennan and I have been able to stem the increase in car-insurance rates, but because of fraud – by scam artists and their corrupt rackets – the problem persists. So I say to the city and state -- if we know the fraud is here, commit the resources to wipe it out!
When I went to New Jersey to rent a car last year, Dollar Rent A Car charged me double other customers' rates – just because I live in Brooklyn. Shame on them! As long as rental agencies like Dollar treat us like criminals for living here, let's not give them another dollar.
I just don't understand why people think they can get away with stiffing Brooklyn. Last May, I released a report that showed how the city's education budget was short-changing Brooklyn students, who continue to thrive despite attending the most overcrowded schools in New York. Funding for new school construction last year was $700 million dollars in Queens.
How much did Brooklyn receive -- with almost the same number of students?
$100 million dollars -- a measly 15% of what Queens got! Overcrowding is just as much a problem in South Brooklyn as it is in Queens – we demand our fair share!
Clearly, the Mayor and schools chancellor heard our demands -- because their new education spending plan comes much closer to balancing this inequality. And soon, our students will have the respect that's due to them.
Speaking of students, I told a state judge last May I would ask school kids to donate pennies, nickels and dimes to save four Brooklyn firehouses from closing. So I will take this opportunity to ask the Mayor -- once again -- that as soon as the budget allows it, re-open our firehouses!
I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge those who fought for Engine 212 -- the People's Firehouse in Williamsburg -- for their hard work on this critical issue.
Would you all please stand.
While Brooklyn has many fine parks, we know we don't have enough.
That's why I'm so excited about Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The 63 acre, 1.3-mile stretch along the East River between Atlantic Avenue and the Manhattan Bridge will be an emerald to rival any urban waterfront park in America – and this time, the grass is greener on our side.
Even TV characters are tuning in to Brooklyn's renaissance -- Miranda from Sex and the City and Grace from Will and Grace recently moved to Brooklyn -- and they're just gonna love it.
The qualities that are going to make Miranda and Grace love Brooklyn are the same ones that are going to turn around Brooklyn's economy once and for all. We have one of the best trained and most highly motivated work forces anywhere; we've made numerous public investments; and local development corporations, business improvement districts and our 18 community boards have been tireless in their devotion to making every neighborhood thrive.
I would lake to take this opportunity to introduce the members of Brooklyn's community boards and the district managers who are here with us. Would you all please stand up.
Thank you all for your dedication to Brooklyn.
In light of rising real estate values and the persistent need for better-paying jobs, our communities need to take a more comprehensive approach -- and rebuild Brooklyn's economy from the ground up. So recently my office joined the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation -- the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding -- and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City to launch the Initiative for a Competitive Brooklyn.
This program will utilize the skills of all Brooklynites -- so that our economy can adapt to the 21st Century market in ways that keep Brooklyn competitive with the other great cities of the world.
One Brooklyn businessman has so much respect for Brooklynites -- that I just had to invite him here today.
At the Navy Yard, Marvin Eisenstadt has manufactured and distributed Sweet and Low, which he invented, since 1957.
Marvin could have modernized his business and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. But that would have meant laying off his 300 workers, who rely on their jobs to support their families, just like the rest of us.
But Marvin's got the Brooklyn spirit. "I made all the money I need for my family," he told me. "But my workers still need their livelihoods."
And that's why Marvin Eisenstadt and his wife Barbara are here with us today.
Please stand up.
Brooklyn and Sweet and Low – how sweet it is!
More proof that we know the right way to get things done here.
The development of new housing goes hand in hand with our economic concerns. And since taking office I've been working with both the Mayor and developers to address Brooklyn's need for 80,000 units of new housing, which is more than any other borough.
But we can't just sit back and hope that new homes are built – we need to make it happen.
For example, I demanded that affordable and middle-income housing must be a part of the Nets project. And all over Brooklyn we're looking at sites to help us get closer to that 80,000.
I've also created the Brooklyn Housing Development Fund, which has allocated 3 and a half million dollars in the last two years to projects that are building homes for the Brooklynites who need them most.
Some of the projects funded include Habitat for Humanity, which built homes in East New York and Ocean Hill-Brownsville -- the Black Veterans for Social Justice built apartments in Crown Heights -- the Saint Nicholas Preservation Corporation built homes in Williamsburg -- and we funded new housing for seniors in Brownsville.
And there is no housing issue more important than upholding strong rent laws and strict code enforcement – these are the bedrocks of our housing policy.
Everything has to start with respect for our bodies and for our health.
I'm proud to have the first baby born in Brooklyn this year here with us today. Tatiana Monet Braan was born at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve -- at Woodhull Hospital in Bushwick.
She's here with her grandmother. Let's all welcome them.
I'm grateful that Tatiana is a happy and healthy baby girl. Sadly, this is not always the case for some Brooklyn families.
I'm proud that Brooklyn tops some great lists. But we're also on some lists I'm not so proud of.
Like our high rates of infant mortality, asthma, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.
What are we doing to address these problems?
We have to start by ensuring that every Brooklyn man, woman and child is able to take advantage of the health insurance plans we have to offer -- so that we all have access to safe, affordable health care.
Then we need to make sure that our hospitals are equipped to provide the world-class care our residents deserve.
And to reinforce the fact that the best available health care is right here in Brooklyn -- here are some recent highlights at our hospitals and medical centers.
Coney Island Hospital's new state of the art cardiac catheterization lab is among the nation's finest. And the construction of their new inpatient facility is a much needed addition.
Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park is in the process of becoming Brooklyn's one-stop comprehensive cancer center, with new diagnostic and treatment facilities set to open next year.
There was a recent ground-breaking at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center's new emergency room and Women's Wellness Center, both of which Brooklyn needs.
Thanks to its excellent new leadership, Brooklyn Hospital is once again becoming one of our premier hospitals – which we are all thankful for. Its Caledonian Campus has also been re-structured to meet the health needs of the immediate community there.
And this year New York Methodist Hospital made it possible for Brooklyn to have its first Gilda's Club to support those living with cancer.
Another solution to Brooklyn's health problems is to increase health awareness and prevention. Because even if you're insured and you have a good hospital to go to, none of that matters if you still don't go.
That's why last fall my office launched Take Your Man to the Doctor week. Because when men hear a funny noise in their car, they take it straight to the mechanic.
But when they hear a funny noise in their bodies, they say "manana."
Wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, sisters, and even some men took the men in their lives to the doctor last year, and next year I hope to see even more.
With one of the largest minority populations and among the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the country, there are – sadly – disparities in the levels of health care our residents receive.
We're doing our best to level this playing field.
So I am pleased to be working with SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the Arthur Ashe Institute For Urban Health in creating the Brooklyn Institute To Study Health Disparities.
Brooklyn is blessed to have a deputy borough president who is a health expert in her own right.
Yvonne works with the women leaders in Brooklyn's hospitals to look at the unique needs of women across their life spans.
My Brooklyn Health Advisory Task Force, chaired by Dan Holt, brings together heads of hospitals and clinics, health advocates and insurers to monitor and respond to critical health-care issues affecting our institutions and our residents. And I was proud to join the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in creating Brooklyn Health Works -- a new lower-cost health insurance plan for owners and employees of small businesses.
Of course the Lighten Up Brooklyn campaign is now entering its third year. Even I lost a few pounds last year.
But I missed those lost pounds, so I found them and put them back where they belong. The message was right, but the messenger was flawed. The struggle continues.
Respecting ourselves and respecting the value of our lives should be the fundamental lesson of our educational system. Because only then will our children value their own lives and grow up to become respectful American citizens.
As hard as the Mayor, the chancellor and the new Department of Education are working to fix our schools, not all the necessary voices are being heard in this discussion. Parents and teachers' voices are talking loud, but the Department of Education is hearing nothing. They need a little lesson in R – e – s – p – e – c - t.
Because parental involvement and empowerment ensure the greatest possible success of our educational system.
That's why I am pleased to announce today my appointment to the city’s Panel for Educational Policy. She was the president of the District 13 School Board, and is an expert in school operations and funding. She's also the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and the mother of a second grader at PS 146.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to introduce Martine Guerrier.
I look forward to Martine establishing an extensive parent network in coordination with the new Community Education Councils. We did not ask for this new system -- but we in Brooklyn are committed to doing everything we can to inform and empower parents, and Martine will be a loud voice on our behalf.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude, on behalf of Brooklyn's parents and public school students -- to our previous appointee, Don Weber, who is an educator's educator.
I always say that Brooklyn is where legends are made and dreams come true. Well, no legends deserve our respect more than the exceptional students in our public schools.
I'm pleased to share with you that 13 Brooklyn students were semi-finalists in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search.
Three of them are here with us.
Tony Dahao Qian
And Lee Dang Han.
Caring adults helped send my younger sisters and I to camp after my father died when I was 9 – and we could never have afforded it on our own.
So I have it made it my business to enable kids in similar situations today to enjoy the same valuable experience.
That's why I started Camp Brooklyn.
Again this year, 200 Brooklyn children went to camp -- thanks to the generosity of others who care about them.
Two other summer programs for Brooklyn children had their second year of success in 2003. Summer Heat again recruited Brooklyn employers to offer summer jobs to our teens.
And Summer Scope, a special day camp co-sponsored by Coca-Cola that provides hundreds of kids with professional theater and sports training.
The Brooklyn Bridge is our perfect symbol because Brooklyn is a place where bridges are built every day between everyone from everywhere – from Minsk to Mexico, from Poland to Port-of-Spain, from Fujian to France, from Haifa to Haiti, from Calabria to County Cork, from Damascus to Dakar -- and from the Hasidim to the Sephardim.
While 99 point 9 percent of Brooklyn celebrates this wealth of diversity, a few still just don't get it.
This year I stood with Brooklyn's Haitian community in condemning the disgraceful racism in the Grand Theft Auto video game, where players are ordered to "kill all the Haitians." Can you believe that?
We should be celebrating with Haitians, not insulting them. In fact, Brooklyn is the Haitian capital of America. Just last month, we proudly raised the Haitian flag over Borough Hall to mark the bicentennial of their hard-fought independence.
And too many times last year we witnessed the repulsive site of swastikas in our Jewish neighborhoods – another sign that ignorance has not been eliminated from our midst.
Brooklyn is home to one third of all holocaust survivors living in America. That's why it was so painful to see such callous disrespect for those who experienced the horrors of the holocaust.
That's why I have urged the schools chancellor to require every high school student to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage -- the city's holocaust memorial -- before graduating.
I'm still waiting for a response.
And I've created the Anti-Bias Working Group, which will bring together Brooklyn communities to ensure that these instances of stupidity become a thing of the past, not the future.
But for every cowardly swastika, there are thousands of good deeds each day that prove that we are one family in Brooklyn, and children of the same god.
In December, we experienced a great tragedy when a fire on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay took 2 lives. Among those was Lester Walton, a retired Fire Department accountant who frantically rang his neighbors' doorbells to alert them of the fire -- only to perish because of his heroic efforts.
We honor his memory.
Lester's courage, along with the actions of Saeed Khan, provided a silver lining to that tragedy's dark cloud. Saeed, who owns the Shoreway Convenience Store across Emmons Avenue, saw the buildings' residents in shock on the street as their apartments burned.
So he brought them into his store, and gave them food, clothing and a place to warm up and recuperate -- and he didn't think twice about doing it. Saeed Khan, too, knows about respect.
Saeed, a Brooklynite by way of Pakistan, is here with us today. Thank you Saeed.
I'm happy to report that crime decreased in Brooklyn yet again this year, thanks in part to some new citywide programs. But even one crime in Brooklyn is too many.
The values learned from religion make a difference in our communities. Show me a young person who regularly attends a church, temple or mosque -- and I'll show you a young person who respects themselves and others.
And there is no better way to fight crime than when the community and police are committed to working together.
Brooklyn is lucky to have two outstanding police chiefs:
Chief Joe Fox, from Brooklyn South.
And Chief Joe Cunneen, from Brooklyn North.
Just as we have to respect our neighborhoods as Brooklyn grows, it is essential that we respect our natural environment -- so that future generations can enjoy the fruits of our labor.
One of the central elements of Brooklyn's rebirth is occurring at its edges. We have long been deprived of access to our historic and beautiful waterfront -- which provides the best views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.
But all that is changing -- with projects like Brooklyn Bridge Park -- and revitalization in Red Hook, the Navy Yard and Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
I envision a day when you can ride your bike from the northern tip of Greenpoint – at least those that can or want to -- along the East River and the Hudson Bay -- all the way to Sunset Park, Coney Island and Floyd Bennett Field.
Why we need ugly, dirty power plants in the middle of the most populated part of New York State I still have no idea. The waterfront, our asset, is simply not the place for power plants.
That's why I support the Williamsburg/Greenpoint residents who are fighting a misguided power plant in their neighborhood.
And just last month in Sunset Park, a judge blocked an energy company from building yet another power plant in the middle of a neighborhood -- which is already overburdened. I congratulate the UPROSE organization for leading this fight to victory for Brooklyn's health.
Elizabeth Yeampierre from UPROSE is here today. Let's congratulate her and UPROSE for their diligence on our behalf.
One man who's making those power companies green with envy is the owner of our own Brooklyn Brewery, Steve Hindy.
Last year, Steve made his brewery the first business in the entire city to get 100% of its electricity from wind power -- all of which is produced right here in New York State. If that's not a clean break from the past I don't know what is. So let's thank Steve Hindy for his clear vision of the future -- and for his great Brooklyn beer.
Ladies and gentlemen -- Steve Hindy.
I started my career as a senior activist, when I founded the Senior Citizens League of Flatbush, back when I was 26 years old.
A year from now, I'll have the chance to join that very center myself.
With our access to public transportation, cultural institutions, restaurants, higher education and our diversity -- Brooklyn should be the place to retire for those that want to make their senior years their best years.
Whatever good you do for seniors today – god willing -- you will enjoy tomorrow.
One Brooklyn teenager clearly understands this. David Anderson has "adopted" a senior couple in his Fort Greene neighborhood. He helps them do things like shovel snow and run errands -- for nothing but a thank you.
I've invited David to join us today, because he's showing that Brooklyn respects its elders. David!
One woman who has devoted more than her fair share of time and energy to making Brooklyn a great place to retire is Grace Harewood, the longtime executive director of the Fort Greene Senior Citizens Council. Grace has helped thousands of Brooklynites age gracefully over the years, and we all thank her for her hard work and devotion.
Ladies and gentlemen, Grace Harewood.
I want to commend Brooklyn's City Council delegation, which fought to restore funding for senior services in the city budget -- which I pump directly into programs that serve seniors. Together with Brooklyn's City Council members, I plan to continue funding a wide range of services to improve the lives of Brooklyn’s older adults in the years to come.
Brooklyn also owes a debt of gratitude to City Council Speaker Gifford Miller -- for fighting to save many valuable city services in our neighborhoods during the tough budget battle last year.
This Friday, my wife Jamie and I will welcome to Borough Hall -- Brooklyn couples who are blessed to have been married for over 50 years -- to reaffirm their vows and share in a champagne toast in respect for their love and devotion.
I will be honored to officiate at this ceremony.
One of those couples -- James and Miriam Little, from Lafayette Gardens in Clinton Hill -- will celebrate 51 years of marital bliss this Valentine's Day.
Please join me in congratulating the Littles!
Now, if you want to talk about devotion, let's talk about the people in uniform who serve and protect the citizens of our borough, at home and overseas.
I would like to take a moment now to remember the public officials we lost in the last year.
I was a mentor to James Davis even before he became a Council Member, and as we all know he is greatly missed.
Mary Pinkett was the first black woman to be elected to the City Council, and she was a dear friend.
And Howard Babbush, who faithfully served neighborhoods like Canarsie and East Flatbush in the State Senate for 20 years.
We also remember those in uniform who lost their lives in our service – whether from the police, fire, sanitation or any other city department.
And finally our service men and women in Iraq, who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure America's security.
Private Rayshawn Johnson.
Specialist Rasheed Sahib.
And Marine Lance Corporal William White.
Let's take a moment now to remember those we lost.
I also want to thank Brooklyn's sons and daughters who remain overseas fighting for our freedom.
One Brooklynite who has returned home is a young man who is as Brooklyn as they come.
Who else but a Brooklynite would have the chutzpah to climb the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and cover his face with the American flag -- for all the world to see?
Marine Sergeant Edward Chin made Brooklyn proud that day, and we are honored to have him with us today. Sergeant Chin!
So why am I crazy about Brooklyn? I'll tell you why.
Because Brooklyn gets its character from a never-ending cast of characters.
Like, where else but Brooklyn does the guy who operates the Gowanus Canal draw-bridge also study at the French Culinary Institute of America -- and publish top-selling chicken cook books?
Leonard "The Chicken Man" Thomas does it, and he does it in Brooklyn. Leonard!
Where else but Brooklyn could a restaurant devastated by a fire have the resilience to bounce back and re-open within a year? At Tatiana's in Brighton Beach -- one of the best Russian restaurants and cabarets in America -- Tatiana Varzar exemplifies the toughness that makes Brooklyn the Russian capital of America.
Where else but Brooklyn would a juggling unicyclist transform an old railroad barge into a waterfront museum and maritime education center that also hosts a summer concert series? Ask David Sharps from Red Hook – because that barge is also his home.
Where else but Brooklyn could a world-class violin maker exist so secretly within our midst? When the world's best classical musicians – like Isaac Stern -- come to New York, they go straight to Brooklyn to see Sam Zygmuntowicz -- the violin maker to the stars. Sam!
Where else but Brooklyn would you have a sweet potato pie contest right in Borough Hall? Mary Hardison's delicious pie won our first annual contest last year, and her organization, Miracle Makers, got $2500 to give to college-bound Brooklynites.
Where else but Brooklyn does America's undisputed handball champion call home? Joe Durso from Bay Ridge has won 9 U.S. Singles One-Wall handball championships – proving once again that Brooklyn is where handball legends are made.
Joe Durso, the Don Juan of handball!
Where else but Brooklyn can you find an ice cream lady as dedicated to her craft as Maria Campanella? If you're ever in Marlboro Houses in Bensonhurst and you want a Fudgsicle, Maria is there for you, day or night. Just don't be surprised if you have to catch up to her while she chases away other ice cream trucks that try to come near her turf.
Ladies and gentlemen, as Brooklyn as it gets -- Maria the Ice Cream Lady!
Where else but Brooklyn would you find the most honest city bus driver on the planet? Last month, Gravesend's Tom Kary found an envelope with $1700 in cash on his X-37 bus. Not only did Tom return the money to the Santamaria family from Bay Ridge who lost it, he refused to accept a reward, or even an offer for lunch!
Tom Kary, you are a model Brooklyn neighbor, and we appreciate your honor and decency.
Ladies and gentlemen – Tom Kary.
Speaking of showing up for work every day for 40 years -- where else but Brooklyn would the same lovely woman serve the world's greatest cheesecake at Junior's six days a week -- from 1960 all the way until this past December – and only miss 3 days of work that entire time!
The woman partially responsible for this face and body is with us today.
Camille Russo – Brooklyn wants to congratulate you on a well deserved retirement.
Thank you Camille.
And where else but Brooklyn can a 5 foot 5 chubby Jewish boy from Crown Heights -- who gets a little overexcited sometimes -- and the closest he ever got to a slam dunk was a Dunkin Donut -- realize his lifelong dream of bringing a major league team back to Brooklyn?
Is it any wonder that I say, "Leaving Brooklyn? Oy vey!"
Thank you very much.