Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at The 32nd Annual Awards for Excellence in Design

July 7, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you everyone and thank you very much Signe for your leadership of the Design Commission. I want to thank Signe and the entire staff of the Design Commission for the extraordinary work they do. And I want to join them in welcoming everyone here to the 32nd Annual Awards for Excellence in Design. Now with these awards, the city’s Design Commission celebrates achievement in both design excellence and public service. I want to emphasize that both those are the standard here tonight. And we appreciate these great winners who have reached so high on both scores.

Tonight we highlight projects that make this city a better place to live for many, many New Yorkers. I want to thank a number of people, including our hosts tonight. First BRIC, which is an extraordinary organization I’ve known for a long time. Let’s thank BRIC and the President Leslie Schultz for all they do.

[Applause]

And I expect to see everyone out at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park with me this summer. Come join us.

And I want to thank Urban Glass, this extraordinary, extraordinary place. Urban Glass Executive Director Cybele Maylone, let’s thank her for all she does.

[Applause]

Now, BRIC is an amazing organization, it means so much to Brooklyn, fosters so many extraordinary cultural activities here in our borough. Located in the beautifully renovated and historic Strand Theater, it has played a key role in revitalizing downtown Brooklyn. And that, obviously, worked in a big way, so I commend BRIC for its role in this extraordinary renaissance of downtown Brooklyn. Also, BRIC is a past winner of a Design Award for 2010. And it’s a testament to the role that they have played in creating the kind of design that’s both aesthetically pleasing and makes an impact on the environment around us. Urban Glass, an important part of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District, a great resource for artists working with glass. Did you know – the largest studio in the nation dedicated to glassmaking. Let’s give them a round of applause for that.

[Applause]

And I want to tell you, all the members of the Design Commission put in a lot of time and energy to make this city an ever more beautiful and extraordinary place. They deserve a lot of credit for the time and commitment and expertise they bring to it. Obviously I want to name them all, and let’s applaud them at the end. Of course the President Signe Nielsen, the Vice President Philip Aarons, all the members – Guy Nordenson; Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos; Maria Elena Gonzalez; Byron Kim, my neighbor; Otis Pratt Pearsall, my almost neighbor; James Stewart Polshek; Paula Scher; Kandace Simmons; and Ann Tenenbaum. Let’s thank all of them for all they do.

[Applause]

I want to thank the organization that sponsored this wonderful event tonight. I hear they got favorable mention on the Letterman Show a few days back, City Beach New York, NYC, give them a great round of applause, The City Beach NYC. And I have to thank my former boss, who’s with us tonight, the man who gave me my start in New York City government and did a great job as mayor of this city, David Dinkins. Let’s thank him for all he did for this city.
[Applause]
I want to remind everyone that I owe my entire family to David Dinkins, because Chirlane and I met in City Hall, so I give him credit for the whole package. Thank you for that.
Members of my administration who are with us, I want to thank them all – Carl Weisbrod, the chair of The City Planning Commission; Tom Finkelpearl, the commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs; Feniosky Peña-Mora our Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction; Mitch Silver, our commissioner of Parks and Recreation; Kyle Kimball, the president of the Economic Development Corporation; Stacy Cumberbatch, the commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services; and Gary Rodney, president of the Housing Development Corporation, let’s give them all a round of applause.
[Applause]
You basically have the entire administration here tonight, so this is a very popular event in our administration.
Tonight we recognize outstanding architects and designers, as well as city agencies and organizations that are literally laying the foundation for the city’s future. And this is happening in every corner of the city in all five boroughs. And all of you in this room have played an important role in shaping the environment for the people of this city and shaping everyone’s daily lived experience. And that’s through the design of such important buildings, including educational facilities, recreation areas, parks and waterfront access, and inspirational public art. And I’m going to say what I think everyone in this room feels and knows through your profession and your commitment to your work, that what you have done will be seen and felt by generations of New Yorkers. It will make their lives better in so many ways and that is something to be – bless you – that is something to be extraordinarily – I said ‘bless you’ both because of the work they did and because he sneezed. But that’s an amazing kind of contribution to make – one that is so lasting, that is so universal, that touches so many people so positively. And there’s a great quote from Winston Churchill, I think really captures this notion. He said, ‘We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.’

And I think that speaks volumes to why so many people here tonight are being honored, because they’ve done something that will not only be lasting, but really change our thinking, improve our lives in so many ways, and be affecting us deeply, and that’s something to truly prize. Well-designed buildings and structures of all kinds and parks help transform neighborhoods, and of course create a valued community asset. More and more, they help us create a more resilient city.

There’s so many functional reasons why this work is crucially important. But, as you know, with the Design Commission, there’s also the goal of going beyond just the exacting physical standards in creating beauty and livability and sustainability in every sense here in the city, and that’s celebrated tonight as well. I think the fact is that millions of people depend on all of us to be thoughtful about their needs, to be thoughtful about the kinds of lives that they aspire to live, in this city in particular.

This city, it’s always been the beacon for immigrants, for people from all over the world, all over the country. And with a common thread that I like to talk about, there’s been this reality over generations of New Yorkers – we’ve been an open place, a place for every kind of person, a place where anyone could create something. That is not true in every part of this country or every part of this world. We know that. We know there’s been stratifications and barriers that don’t allow that sense of openness. It has been true for generations in New York – not perfectly, we have a lot more to do to create that more perfect union in this city and in our country. But there’s something that’s been quintessentially New York about that accessibility, that openness, that diversity, that inclusion. It’s something we have to protect. And I’ve talked plenty about – in other settings – about some of the economic and other challenges that we have to address to make sure we are a place that’s open for all.

But tonight we can celebrate work that lives in that spirit, that is truly egalitarian, truly inclusive, that helps continue that extraordinary tradition in this city. The people who we praise and award tonight are folks who lived out that spirit, made it tangible, made it come to life in ways that will affect people for decades to come. So it’s a moment to celebrate these individuals and these firms, but it’s also a moment to celebrate an ideal of New York that’s being rejuvenated once again through their work. And that’s something to be so proud of.

So I want to thank you all and commend you all, every single one of you, and thank you for what you’ve done for New York City. And with that, I will turn the program back to our leader, back to Signe, and say thank you to everyone here tonight for being a part of this wonderful ceremony. Thank you.

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