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WELCOME Thank you Council President Karen Watts, City Council Yuhanna members Edwards, Steve Diane Horton, Roberta Apuzzo, Clerk
George Brown, and City Comptroller Maureen Walker; ladies and gentlemen—good evening and welcome everyone to my fourth State of the City Address. I am proud and honored to stand before you this evening to state with clear and defensible certainty that the great City of Mount Vernon is strong and we are secure. We are strong and secure as a city, because we are strong, secure and UNITED as a community, the
dramatic and considerable progress as a result of significant changes that have positively touched the many lives in our beloved city who we have the obligation to serve and provide the very best. Our tax dollars are stretching further than before, because of a well defined philosophy of spending to protect the taxpayers as we meet the increasing demands of the public. Yet, there’s so much more to be done during this difficult economic and political climate. I therefore respectfully urge my partners in government to work cooperatively with me to do what’s best to progress Mount Vernon. We must continue to move Mount Vernon into the 21st century. And we will, because … We’ve come too far to turn back now. Progress, Yes Progress, must continue!
There is a vibrant and evident spirit of pride and success flowing throughout Mount Vernon. As a
community, we have faced many recent challenges. We have met each challenge head on, and as a community we have succeeded. One of the biggest challenges was the possibility of losing Mount Vernon Hospital. Planned reductions in vital health care services and staff at Mount Vernon Hospital would have changed the course of health care in our community. This hospital serves over 22-thousand people
annually, whether they have insurance or not. The proposed cuts in services would have been devastating to our community. Not to mention, the economic impact since Mount Vernon Hospital is one of the largest employers of city residents. When I sounded the alarm our community came together to save our hospital. Tonight, I am happy to report, thanks to the hard work of community members like Wendy Clark, who worked at the hospital for close
to 40 years, and Glenstone Clark, as well as members of the administration, and the United Black Clergy of Westchester, under the leadership of UBC President Reverend Dr. W. Darin Moore and Chairman Emeritus Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, we reached a deal with Sound Shore Medical Center. We not only saved the hospital -- now we are expanding it. Late last year, we announced that Sound Shore Medical Center is investing 50-Million dollars into our hospital. That’s right, a fifty million dollar investment in the Mount Vernon Hospital. Our Hospital! Now, Mount Vernon Hospital will become a modern medical center and in terms have of a both technology and
emergency room, an assisted living facility, a state of the art surgical center, and one of the best diabetes, dialysis and wound care treatment centers in the Hudson Valley. This is a huge accomplishment for our city. The expanded hospital facility will pump an estimated one hundred million dollars into our local economy -- and all of Mount Vernon is proud of that.
I thank Sound Shore President and Chief Executive Officer John Spicer for his commitment to remain at the table to listen to our concerns and work with us to address the unique health care needs of our city. And, members of the United Black Clergy who are here tonight please stand. I am also happy to say Reverend Elliott Baisden and Reverend Troy DeCohen are now members of the Hospital Board of Trustees. When it comes to health care, the well being of our City is not limited to Mount Vernon Hospital. Many of our residents are serviced by the Mount Vernon
Neighborhood Health Center, which services a majority of non or under insured residents. The Neighborhood Health Center’s CEO Carole Morris is an icon who does a tremendous job. Providing quality health care is vital. But not everyone sees Mount Vernon as a priority or being important. Proposed county cuts to our Health Center would have devastated all areas and levels of care. Fortunately, our County Legislator Lyndon Williams fought extremely hard and was successful in having monies restored. Now our residents and their children
who are served by the Neighborhood Health Center can continue to receive quality health care. Thank you Legislator Williams! Thank you Carole Morris! Thank you for believing in our city, and caring the way you do for all of our residents! We’ve come too far to turn back now! must continue! Speaking of major investments in our city, let’s talk about Levister Towers. For many years now, Levister Towers has been known for a substandard quality of life. Since the beginning of my administration my office was inundated with calls, letters and complaints about the management of Levister Towers. The former Progress
manager of the buildings was having serious financial difficulties. As a result, the tenants in the buildings had to endure the sporadic loss of lights, heat and hot water in their homes every other month due to non-payment by the former owner. Security was lacking in the buildings and our police department had to conduct double tours to keep the tenants safe in their homes, which also
impacted our budget. The ultimate insult, the new playground for our children the former owner promised was never refurbished. The tenant’s cries went
unanswered for a long time. The City’s Corporation Counsel Loretta Hottinger and the Chief of Staff Yolanda Robinson fought for a change in ownership of Levister Towers, and today, we have it. In April of 2010 the new owners Levister SMN, LLC took over the complex. They are truly committed to improving the quality of life for the tenants and establishing a long term partnership with the city. Also, looming large were missing scheduled tax payments and other fees owed to the city by the former owner that were not aggressively sought. Since the transfer of ownership, the city has received almost $1 million in payments previously owed. And equally important, our children have a new playground. I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Nick Kordas, a partner in the company, please stand. Thank you for delivering a better quality of life for the citizens of
Levister Towers. They deserve it! We are not going to rest until the all of the past due funds owed by the previous owner are paid in full. Levister Towers is a vital part of the fabric of our community and in this room tonight are many people who have lived in, raised children in and grew up in Levister Towers. Levister Towers is a beautiful and bright patch in the quilt of the City of Mount Vernon. We’ve come too
far to turn back now! Progress must continue.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Every day, we read about the current economic conditions that have crushed progress and the growth of many cities across the nation and, while the economy has had some negative effects in Mount Vernon, we are in many areas experiencing never before seen levels of investment in our Great city. Development interest in the city of Mount Vernon is at an all-time high. Let me repeat that -- development
interest in the City of Mount Vernon is at an all time high. From the South Side to Fleetwood, from the West Side to our industrial section, our city is appealing to investors and I have been inundated with expressions of interest from those who want to invest in Mount Vernon. I’d like to recognize some of those investors who are here with us tonight: Peter Fine of Atlantic Development. A proposed three phase mixed use development on Gramatan Avenue and Oakley between Gramatan and Crary. This is both workforce and senior housing. Felix Petrillo (a Mount Vernon boy) has invested several million dollars to resurrect 550 Locust Street, now called the Horizon, which will have a grand opening on April 14th. John Saraceno – presently under construction a mixed use development on West First Street and South 7th Avenue. Fred Schwam – CEO of American Christmas, merged all of his operations in New Jersey into one headquarters here in Mount Vernon.
Eric Guhring – Roosevelt Square Professional Building. A totally renovated 21st Century state of the art office building. Westchester’s first shared virtual office building. We ReCycle – The world’s largest recycler of computer parts quickly outgrew its headquarters on Sandford Blvd. It now has a second location on Franklin Avenue. Rob DeBenedictis – of Kingsbridge Canning Corp. is renovating a new headquarters located at 2 South Street – Dan Amicucci – Is embarking on a new Multi-million dollar mixed use improvement plan for South 4th Avenue. Augie Nigro of Canal Asphalt, a longstanding and long respected business in Mount Vernon who seeks to develop a waterfront promenade along the banks of the Hutchison River at Hutch Field. Fun City of Mount Vernon, NY – a proposed indoor water park, restaurant, tennis and fitness center, retail shops and so much more. We’re very fortunate to have exceptional partners who are dedicated to advancing commerce in our city. Each developer understands I require three things: 1) All projects must be aesthetically pleasing; 2) Jobs
made 3) for
Mount Vernon firms. We need jobs here in Mount Vernon, and we are going to do our best to bring in as many jobs as possible. I want to acknowledge the fine work of
Commissioner Mark Warren and the entire Building Department for keeping pace with approvals and
generating income with permits. We are not building haphazardly. Overseeing much of the development is Jeff Williams, our Commissioner of Planning and Community Development and Carmen Sylvester, Executive Director of our Industrial
Development Agency. Thanks to the efforts by the Planning Department, our City will have a Comprehensive or Master Plan by the end of the year. We have not had a Master Plan since 1968 or when man first walked on the moon. Smart, common-sense development is the best way to provide relief to our taxpayers. We will continue to
seek out partners who want to contribute to our city’s success, as well as earn a profit. The Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, under its President Frank Fraley, is experiencing tremendous growth and I encourage all local business owners to get on board with this important organization. The Chamber and the African American Chamber of Commerce led by Robin Douglas have both played a significant role in the successful Mount Vernon
Business Expo which now enters its third year and will be held on June 29th. Mount Vernon is the number one city in the State of New York for Black and minority owned businesses. SAVE OUR SPORTS Any significant challenge to any segment of our community is a challenge to the entire Mount Vernon family. We know that the Board of Education does not fall under the umbrella of the city government. There is a well defined line. The Board of Education is a separate taxing entity responsible for educating our children. There is, however, no division when it comes
to the overall well being of our children. We are working closer than ever before with Superintendent Dr. “Tony” Sawyer and the school community. We all want our children to succeed. In providing the necessary tools for our kids to succeed, we continue to face
extraordinary challenges. In 2008, our schools faced difficult budgetary choices, which unfortunately resulted in the elimination of the sports program from the school district’s 20082009 Budget. As a proud graduate of Mount Vernon High School and a former celebrated athlete, I could not allow this to happen. Save Our Sports (S.O.S.) movement was created to help the district to raise the money. I called on some famous friends, who are Mount Vernon School alumni, including: NBA star Ben Gordon, as well as my dear friend Denzel Washington who donated the first $100-thousand dollars of his own money to support this worthy cause. And it was a slam-dunk! As a community, we saved our sports program. Thank God we did, because tonight, we honor the success of that investment.
Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome members of the 2011 New York State and New York State
Federation Basketball Champions the Mount Vernon High School Boys Basketball Team. Legendary Coach
Bob Cimmino cannot be with us tonight. Coach Cimmino was selected to coach the prestigious McDonald’s High School All-American Team. Let’s hear it for the State Champs! Also with us is Coach Patrice Wallace-Moore and Section One finalist the Mount Vernon Girls Basketball team. Give it up for these outstanding young ladies. This is why I work so hard. So our children will have an opportunity to shine in academics and athletics. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!! PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE! I also want to honor our All American Boys Track Team who took the National Championships by storm under the leadership of Coach Marcus Green. Please welcome the outstanding Girls track team of Mount Vernon High School and Coach Walter Hall who has lead them to many victories this season.
Our support and investment is not just about sports. These young people have brought a tremendous amount of pride to our city and for themselves. It is almost certain each of these students upon graduating Mount Vernon High School will receive a scholarship to college ensuring possibilities of an even brighter future. And it’s not just on the playing fields. It’s in the classroom. Contrary to media reports, the majority of our children are working hard at school and performing a tremendous service to the community. I would like to introduce the 2011 Mount Vernon School District
Spelling Bee Champion Kali Palmer of the Lincoln Elementary School. Kali is here with her mother. Ladies please stand. We are acknowledging our young people, because the local press will not. In June of this year, Kali will appear at the national spelling bee competition in Washington, D.C. We wish you much success in
Washington. Also, know that your city is behind you all
the way. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!! PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!!! With sports in mind, I’m happy to announce that construction of the new Memorial Field will finally get underway this year. Last week, the City Council
approved bonding in the amount of about $1.5 million for Memorial Field. The funding will cover: • Field lighting • An upgraded score board • Away team bleachers • An additional ticket booth and concession stand • Satellite locker room and rest room These things are essential to convert Memorial Field into a “world class” facility. Yesterday, the Board of Estimate and Contract voted to advertise for BIDS for “The Memorial Field Redevelopment “Project.” Tonight, I thank the Capital Projects Committee under the leadership of Committee Chair Councilman Steven Horton, Council President Karen Watts,
Councilwoman Roberta Apuzzo, and Elvira Castillo for their hard work in ensuring these funds. I look forward to cooperatively working with the City Council and Comptroller’s Office to facilitate the bonding process. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!!
PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!! GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY Every year, I’ve asked my commissioners to do more will less. This year is no different. Prudent spending and accountability performance ability to remain my are policy. largely and
Commissioner based on
economies. Since 2008, we’ve seen overtime levels in the police, fire, and Public works departments steadily decrease. Thanks to better management and updated equipment we are able to achieve these results – despite major snow and torrential rain storms. We are achieving major success in the area of Information Technology. Commissioner Mary Graves and our Management Services Department team have
updated and saved tens of thousands of dollars on our copier contracts, acquired the ability to work from remote locations, enhanced vendor invoice tracking and strengthened technology. We’ve also reduced non-personnel city expenses by over 12 percent from 2009 levels. As we move forward, we will look to further reduce these costs by procurement policies via enhanced
outsourcing functions such as payroll and by examining our health care benefits options. For years now our health care premiums have skyrocketed and we have gone for too long without seeking less expensive alternatives. We will continue to keep an open mind to all options that will reduce the burden on the taxpayer. This year, we have partnered with two computer firms Capstone Strategy and MarketView to help us update our network systems to enhance workflow and efficiency, as well as accountability of city assets and equipment. I would like to thank Derickson Lawrence of Marketview Resources and Dwight McCloud of
Capstone for their expertise and commitment to our city. By the way, they are also Mount Vernon residents.
Soon, we will unveil a new website. This new website will give us the flexibility to be more
interactive and responsive with the public. A website is considered a window into the heart of a city. I thank another Mount Vernon firm, Greenberg Media for their expertise and dedication towards moving our city into the 21st century. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN
BACK NOW!!!! PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!! PUBLIC SAFETY Three years ago, our city faced an epidemic of rising crime and early in my administration young black men were being killed on our streets at the rate of one per month. Almost exclusively, these murders were by the use of illegal handguns. Weapons obtained through gun mills, mostly in the south, and transported across state lines ultimately winding up in the hands of young men associated with drug and gang involvement. At every public meeting and everywhere I went, the issue that I heard about most frequently, was crime. Early on I partnered with New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg and the Mayors Against Illegal Handguns
organization. In fact, I was invited to met with him to discuss additional policies to curb gun violence in our nation. I am proud to report that in the fourth year of my tenure as your Mayor, crime has decreased every year that I have been in office and we no longer see people being killed monthly on our streets. Although we suffered a tragic loss just a week and a half ago, and our hearts and prayers go out to Durell Gordon’s Family. It is important for me to note that prior to this sad tragedy, we had gone fifteen months without a murder on city. Yes, fifteen months without a murder on our streets! Our city’s image has changed for the better. This very unfortunate tragedy is the exception and not the norm. We can thank the hard working men and women of the Mount Vernon Police Department for their diligence and professionalism as well as their leadership under Commissioner Carl Bell, who as a kid grew up in the Mount Vernon Y and Boys and Girls Club. From his successful career in the Drug Enforcement
experience, aggressive approach and extensive interagency relationships to Mount Vernon. Under my administration, we have increased the number of officers to the highest total this city has ever seen and in January, we swore in twenty one new recruits who, when they graduate from the Police Academy, will join the ranks of Mount Vernon’s Finest. We have combined proven strategies like
community policing with new age technology based systems like Shot Spotter to further strengthen the effectiveness of our Police Department and it has had a dramatic effect. Also, through our capital projects program we added nine new police cars to our fleet, and we are looking to add more. WE HAVE COME TO FAR MOUNT VERNON TO TURN BACK NOW!! Also important to successful crime reduction is community involvement. Over the last few years, more and more citizens are becoming involved reporting crimes and working with the police. The Peacekeeper movement that evolved out of the Summit Meetings
Against Violence at Grace Baptist Church is also a major part of crime reduction. I know you’ve seen the committed citizens out there in their orange shirts walking the streets of our most challenged
neighborhoods and engaging and mentoring young men and women. Thank you Lowes Moore and the men of PeaceKeepers! A new law enforcement tool is your cell phone. Now, residents can contact the Police Department quickly and anonymously by texting CRIMES or 274637 to report criminal activity. Despite our success, I am in no way declaring a total victory in the fight against crime. We have more work to do and rest assured that Public Safety will remain the highest priority of this administration and I call upon everyone in this room tonight, as well as ALL of our citizens, to continue to work with our Police Department and together we will win this all important battle. Our public safety advances also extend to Mount Vernon’s Bravest. Our professional firefighters, who
enter burning buildings while everyone else runs out, deserve the best possible apparatus and safety
equipment… and my administration has delivered. We have upgraded our fleet of fire trucks and now stand on our own. We no longer suffer the embarrassment of pleading with neighboring cities to borrow ladders and engines. We have moved our firefighters out of the trailers and back into their firehouse, where they belong. The conditions of Fire Station One should have never been allowed to decay to such unlivable conditions and we must thank Senator Ruth Thompson for her assistance in obtaining the funding to make the much needed renovations. Soon, thanks to a grant secured with the
assistance of Congressman Eliot Engel, these brave men will also be receiving new breathing apparatus to provide a higher level of protection when they enter burning smoke-filled buildings. As seen with the recent dramatic rescue operation performed by the Yonkers Fire Department, our
firefighters must remain properly equipped.
Today, our citizens also enjoy considerably greater coverage of emergency medical services. Prior to 2009, our city shared just one EMS unit with both Pelham and the eastern part of Yonkers. Today, after changing to a Mount Vernon based company TRANSCARE, we now average 2 EMS units dedicated just to our city – at no expense to our taxpayers. This year, we are nearing construction of a new Emergency Operations Center at the Third Street Firehouse that will provide a state of the art
communications and logistical operations center for all of our emergency responders. US Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, as well as State Senator Thompson were all instrumental in securing funding for this facility that will help to ensure our preparedness for any type of disaster. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!!
PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!! INFRASTRUCTURE It is no secret that for close to two decades our streets, parks, our municipal buildings and fleet have been allowed to decay to the point of embarrassment.
In spite of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, we have made great strides to improve our infrastructure and our delivery of public works services. The little league fields at Brush Park have been completely renovated thanks to help from our good partner Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. It was an extra special opening day last summer and seeing the joy on the faces of the boys and girls as they saw the brand new fields was so heartwarming. Our Recreation and Public Works employees worked so hard to make this happen and they did it for our children. With winter now in our rear view mirror, hopefully anyway, the record snowfall is still fresh in our memory and I emphatically state that the snow removal effort of our Public Works Department was second to none. The toll that the winter took on our equipment, salt supply, roads and workers was significant. Nonetheless, the leadership provided by Commissioner Terrence Horton and his road crews was extraordinary and I thank them for getting the job done. We have the best DPW crew!!!!
Our streets are getting paved, every year. Late in 2010 we saw much needed resurfacing of Mount Vernon Avenue and East Lincoln Avenue as well as other roadways in all corners of this city. This important work must continue, and will continue. We are also updating our pedestrian crossings and signals on the south side with modern equipment that will make crossing the streets even safer. Tonight, I’m happy to report to you that we have installed new sidewalk ramps and pedestrian signals along Second and Third Streets, and we will also perform the same work on Fulton Avenue to the Bronx border. The Fourth Avenue Bridge East sidewalk, which was closed for over a decade is now open to foot traffic. We also now have plans to repair the intersection of Gramatan Avenue and Broad Street. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!!
PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!! You’ve all heard me speak about our ancient fleet of garbage trucks and street sweepers that have spent more time in the repair shop as they did cleaning our city streets. Well, in 2010 we added eight brand new
sanitation trucks to the fleet and, just earlier this month, three new street sweepers hit the city streets; all through our capital projects program. This capital investment will not only make our city cleaner, but will save our taxpayers money in terms of less overtime, repair and fuel expenses. We are saving our taxpayers money! We replaced the elevator in the Armory for our seniors and we are now replacing the roof of this very building and soon the roof at the Doles Center. More work remains and we will continue to address these important structural issues through municipal bonding at the current historically low interest rates and favorable terms. Our capital projects plan is a smart common-sense investment that has been a great success. Moving forward, with the cooperation of our City Council, we will make even greater strides in delivering to our citizens a modern and more appealing Mount Vernon. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!!
PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!! YOUTH
Throughout my travels across the city, people are never tired of me bragging about the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau. They are excited each time I extol the virtues of the hard working group of people who, despite continuing cuts in state aid, provide our city’s young people with a myriad of youth development programming and employment opportunities, including: after-school and summer employment; the Safe Haven program; the STRONG program at Mount Vernon High School; college and career prep; inter-generational programs; Step Up; Gems and so much more. Today our youth have options available to them that have never been offered before and I want to recognize the Executive Director of the Youth Bureau, a dedicated and tireless leader, Ms. DaMia Harris. If you are a parent in this city, you owe it to yourself and to your children to contact the Mount Vernon Youth Bureau and learn about the many
opportunities that are available to your kids. WE’VE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW!! EYES ON THE PRIZE
Since 2008, my administration has been on a dual track of restoration and progress to achieve our goal of better management and services for our constituents. While we have accomplished a great deal in a short time, we have a way to go before the City of Mount Vernon realizes its full potential. One thing is clear, we are a city that is moving forward and moving in the right direction headed towards greatness. back the clock now. Tonight, I ask all of you to help continue the progress we have made in this city. I said it before, and I will say it again using a quote by President Barack Obama, “Our destiny is not written for us, it is written by us.” We cannot turn
MOUNT VERNON…WE HAVE COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW. PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!!! PROGRESS MUST CONTINUE!!!! Thank you! God Bless you all! God Bless America and the great City of Mount Vernon. Good Night.
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