REMARKS: SCOTT STRINGER ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR MAYOR
“We are going to build this city back stronger than ever.” –Scott Stringer
New York City Comptroller announced his candidacy for mayor of New York City from Inwood Hill Park in Upper Manhattan, near his childhood home. Stringer’s remarks as prepared for delivery can be viewed below.
Thank you for joining us today. Thank you to Elyse, for your love and partnership. Thank you to Max and Miles, for the joy you bring us and for rolling with the pandemic punches over the past six months. And though he can’t be here today, I want to thank my stepfather, Carlos Cuevas, for everything he has done for our family. I am thrilled that Carlos’s grandson and his wife Diana could be with us today.
And thank you to an incredible group of progressive leaders: Senators Biaggi, Jackson, Kavanagh, Ramos, and Salazar, Assemblymembers Carroll, Cruz, Niou, Rosenthal, and Taylor, and future-Assemblymember Septimo — for everything you do for this city, and for your friendship and support.
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That extraordinary New Yorker, Colson Whitehead, has written that the places we know remain a part of the city that we carry around with us. Every day of my life, I have carried, with me, the neighborhoods of Inwood and Washington Heights, where I grew up.
In the 1970s, this was a place where a single mom like mine could afford to give her boys a middle-class life.
I went to P.S. 152, not far from here. In the schoolyard, we were from Dyckman Houses, from the Mitchell-Lama on Hillside Avenue, and from Bogardus Place, where my family lived. When I was not much older than my sons are today, that schoolyard felt as big as a baseball stadium. If you could hit a spaldeen over the fence, you were golden. I was not golden.
And when you finished at the schoolyard, you went over to the Y on Nagle Avenue, my second home. I played pickup games of football here in this park, before I finally came to grips with the fact that I was unlikely to be drafted by the New York Jets.
All of us here in those days shared a connection, based on a sense of pride in the neighborhood, even though we knew — and maybe because we knew — that no one outside the 10040 zip code really cared about those of us who lived in it.
It was like no one downtown even realized the A train went past 59th Street. We were, in so many ways, on our own. And, like much of the city at that time, people were struggling uptown.
But we were strong. Our strength? It was our families. Our small business owners. Our teachers. Our nurses. The people that we have recently come to call essential workers. The folks who came pouring out of that A train — or the 1 — at the end of every day.
My mom, and the parents of my classmates — in the 70s, they held the fort until brighter days arrived. Indeed, the brighter days arrived, in no small part, because of them — because of their unity as a community, and their commitment to each other.
That was the story of so many communities in this great city. No one invested there, except for the people who lived there.
And then, when the contributions those residents made, over decades, put their neighborhoods on the map, the real estate companies and other profiteers wasted no time swooping in with luxury development. These speculators had a willing partner in City Hall — through multiple administrations. All the while, people were being pushed out and priced out.
And then the pandemic hit.
And it was in these neighborhoods, where our essential workers live — Black and Brown and immigrant communities — neighborhoods where we under-invested for years in health care and social infrastructure, where the death toll mounted. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. And, to the people who endured it, it wasn’t.
In Manhattan, out of 44 zip codes, three out of the top five COVID rates were in Washington Heights. Number two? 1-0-0-4-0 — my childhood zip code.
This outrageous story repeats itself in each of the city’s five boroughs — in neighborhoods like Elmhurst and Corona, represented by Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Cruz, or Allerton and Pelham Gardens, represented by Senator Biaggi, where the death rates were more than ten times what they were in our city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
I do not presume to know what it was like to live through this pandemic in a place where it hit the hardest. I do recognize that Elyse and I have a level of privilege that is shared by a relative few in this city and that our challenges do not compare to the trauma experienced by many.
But if I needed a reminder that we are, in fact, all in this together, and that our fates and futures are bound up together — among the more than 20,000 New Yorkers we lost to the coronavirus was my mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas.
One night, as my mom lay dying in a Bronx hospital room where no one — not Carlos, not Elyse or me, or my children — could go visit her, I spoke with her doctor on the phone.
I understand, I told him — a lot of parents and grandparents are dying from this.
With all due respect, he told me, that’s not what’s happening in the Bronx. In the Bronx, Black people are dying, of all ages. Young Latino people are dying. People with asthma, and obesity, and type-2 diabetes are dying. Because we’ve set up a healthcare system that manages these problems, but never solves them — never actually changes outcomes. It’s not just older people, the doctor said — the community is dying.
This virus exposed how we have left large swaths of this city on their own.
The fact is, we never closed the book on the tale of two cities. If anything, over the last eight years, we’ve written more chapters.
I say all of this not to contribute to a misguided sense of fatalism about the City’s future. But it is because we love this city that we must acknowledge that we have a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a social justice crisis raging all at once.
And I believe we can overcome them all. I believe in this City’s future. Because I am a son of Washington Heights, where we are strong, and where we fight for our future.
This City is strong. Our people are strong. But they should not have to fight their way back on their own.
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This city deserves leadership as good as its people — as tough, as creative, and as determined.
And that is why, with a belief that we can — and we must — bring leadership back to City Hall and build a city for everyone, today, I am announcing my candidacy for mayor of the great City of New York.
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Bringing leadership back to City Hall means clearly and candidly dealing with the budget crisis staring directly at us.
There’s a 4.2 billion dollar deficit next year. It is significant, but in the context of an 88 billion dollar budget, it is surmountable if we take an all-levers approach.
As Mayor, I’ll root out waste at every agency. I’ll rein in outside contracts. I’ll make sure that when we invest in programs, we measure the results. And I’ll bring financial management and accountability back to government.
We will enact smart, targeted revenue generators.
Any borrowing must be a limited part of a comprehensive plan — one that ensures that we don’t enter into a vicious cycle of reliance on debt.
And we will ask the most fortunate to pay a bit more in taxes. We asked our frontline workers to be heroes, and we are going to ask the wealthiest among us to do their part, as well.
Together, what we will get is a city where the world’s most creative and talented people want to come and work, and can afford to do so. A city where business will thrive because of that creativity and talent. A city that, under my watch, will have a well-run and responsible government that doesn’t waste tax dollars.
Let me be clear: I don’t want any New Yorker to leave.
And, if I’m elected, we are going to build this city back stronger than ever.
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Bringing leadership back to City Hall means that we cannot reopen this economy the same way we closed it.
That’s why I have already put out a comprehensive plan to breathe new life into our economy by investing in our small businesses… our women- and minority-owned businesses… our immigrant entrepreneurs. My plan will create jobs, reimagine streets to work for communities, support restaurants and stores, and bring back the main streets of neighborhoods across the five boroughs that have been devastated by COVID.
We also must recognize that there are thousands of workers who are not going back to their old jobs, because those jobs don’t exist anymore. We will confront that challenge head-on. New York, particularly now, has the foundation to become the life sciences and public health capital of the world. So let’s focus on training New Yorkers for those jobs — the healthcare and tele-health jobs… the design and engineering jobs… that were a growing part of our economy before, and will be again when I am mayor.
Because the measure of our success in recovering from this pandemic cannot be whether the Dow Jones continues to rise. The measure of our success must be, instead, whether we finally build a city for everyone.
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That takes work, and leadership, and vision. We’ve done it before.
Mayor LaGuardia invented the first public housing in the 1930s, when the Great Depression was ravaging the nation. The Mitchell-Lama housing program in the 50s and 60s helped grow the middle-class, and gave working families an affordable place to live. Mayor Koch rebuilt entire neighborhoods in the 80s – and reduced homelessness in the process.
When I am mayor, we will end the crushing cycle of speculation, eviction, and displacement. No more giving away the store to developers. No more unaffordable affordable housing. We will put an end to the gentrification industrial complex, and an end to policies that perpetuate a cycle of segregation in our neighborhoods and in our schools.
We will institute my plan for Universal Affordable Housing, to require that 25% of new units in every new development — in every neighborhood — be permanent, affordable housing. We will triple the number of new apartments built for homeless families. And we will create the city’s first-ever land bank, and leverage more than a thousand city-owned vacant lots, to build housing that working people can actually afford.
Together, we will put the city’s approach on a fundamentally new trajectory — to build the housing we need, in a city for everyone.
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Bringing leadership back to City Hall means aggressively attacking the disparities that begin at birth.
We will enact my plan, NYC Under 3, to extend child care assistance to all families making less than 100,000 dollars a year and more than triple the number of children in city-backed child care. It would be the largest investment in childcare by any city in the nation. Senator Ramos — thank you for being our champion in Albany.
We will confront the failures of a segregated public education system that too often metes out quality and opportunity along lines of race and class.
You see, I’m a public school parent who knows the truth: That what the Department of Education gives to my children is not what it gives to the children of Elmhurst, or Elm Park, or East New York. Over the course of this campaign — just as I’ve done over the last few months on school reopening and outdoor learning — we will publish a comprehensive blueprint to level the playing field, make up for the learning loss that has occurred over the course of this pandemic, and invest in all of our children in a way we’ve never done before.
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Bringing leadership back to City Hall means a full-court press on climate justice.
As Comptroller, together with our pension trustees, I launched the first divestment by a major public pension fund from fossil fuels. We took on climate deniers and utilities and fought to make America’s largest corporations confront the realities of climate change. We have doubled, to 4 billion dollars, our pension investments in climate solutions.
As Mayor, I’ll put in place a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure in the city. We’ll spend the city’s capital dollars on projects that protect the environment and boost sustainability. And we will implement a resiliency plan that protects every waterfront community, not just lower Manhattan.
We allowed the coronavirus to discriminate in devastating ways against our Black and Brown communities. We will not allow it to happen again in this city with climate change.
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Bringing leadership back to City Hall means taking on police violence and systemic racism against people of color.
It means a paradigm shift that keeps neighborhoods safe and recognizes the basic humanity in all of us.
This summer, New Yorkers took to the streets to exercise their right to protest and voice anger and pain about the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, about long-standing police brutality against Black lives in this city — and a status quo of racial injustice that pervades our society.
In response, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner — repeatedly — excused the inexcusable, defended the indefensible, and failed to take responsibility for violence against New Yorkers.
That ends the day I’m sworn in as Mayor.
More than twenty years ago, I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience after the police murder of Amadou Diallo. Nearly a decade ago, I was one of the first elected officials who looked like me to speak out against stop-and-frisk. And as mayor, I will say to the NYPD what Bill de Blasio has not: “You work for the people of this city, and you are not an independent agency.”
We will move substantial responsibility for non-criminal and social issues away from the police department, and invest resources in communities that have been criminalized and victimized for generations. We will overhaul how police officers are disciplined. And, working with Senator Salazar and Assemblymember Niou, we will abolish mandatory surcharges and forgive outstanding debt in the criminal justice system, to end the criminalization of poverty that fuels mass incarceration.
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None of this is at odds with keeping our neighborhoods safe.
When I was a teenager, there were more than 2,000 murders a year in this city. I promise you this: we are not going back to those days — not for my kids, not for anyone’s children.
What we will do is implement innovative deterrence strategies, invest in violence interruption efforts with proven track records of ending cycles of retribution, and support good, constitutional police work focused on those individuals driving an outsize share of the violence.
I also want everyone to understand this: I have gone to the funeral of almost every police officer killed in the line of duty in this city over the last eight years. I have witnessed, too many times, the moment when the flag is presented to the family — usually with a young child looking on. I feel enormous gratitude to those who put themselves in harm’s way to keep this city safe.
And so my promise to the men and women of the NYPD is that when I am mayor, I will honor their service — while working to ensure that their service is worthy of honor.
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There is more — much more — that I want to do. I feel an enormous sense of urgency about the work that lies ahead. And I feel an enormous sense of responsibility about seeking the job of mayor at this time.
As Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer of this city, I manage a staff of 750 people.
And as mayor, I am going to manage the hell out of this city.
As with every office I have ever held, City Hall, on my watch, will operate with the highest levels of integrity. We will not be intimidated by the work of taking on a broken status quo — something I’ve been doing since I stood up to Shelly Silver as a young assemblyman. The days of pay-to-play on city contracts will be over. There will be no “Agents of the City” in a Stringer administration.
We will recruit a diverse team of top experts and government professionals. I will ask them for their hardest work and best ideas — and let them do their jobs. We will pursue big ideas, and sweat the small stuff.
And we will build a city for everyone by working with leaders in every neighborhood.
Leaders like the change-makers here today. And it is a big deal that they are here — not just because they’re going to be crucial to winning this race. But because, together, we are going to forge a new, progressive, people-powered coalition that is going to turn the vision I’ve outlined today into a reality.
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Over the past six months, I have watched this city go through great pain. I have worked to assist those in need. I have marched with my fellow New Yorkers, lending my voice to their cause. As Comptroller, I have highlighted the problems — from incompetence to injustice — laid bare by the pandemic. On a personal level, Elyse and I have struggled to do our jobs while meeting the needs of Max and Miles. On many days, it all seems simply overwhelming.
And in the months since my mother’s passing, I have thought a great deal about what she would say about our city’s future, and what she would expect of me — of all of us.
It would be nothing less than what she and her neighbors did when this city, and their community, was once before on its knees.
We stay. We fight.
And for the neighborhoods that have been knocked down, for the people who have been priced out, for the children who are this city’s future — I will bring leadership back to City Hall, and together, we will build a city for everyone.
Thank you very much.