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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Fred Dixon as NYC & Company CEO

March 15, 2014

Mayor de Blasio: Fred obviously has a popularity problem. I, you know, I’ve been involved in politics. I’m going to have to counsel him on how to improve his image, get people to like him a little more. Fred’s been such a star since he joined New York City & Company. And I don’t know about you; the southern charm definitely works. He—as I’ve spent time with him, I became as convinced as everyone on the board that this was the right man to lead the future of this great organization. And he has that energy, and actually it’s interesting. As a city of immigrants—and we’re a city of immigrants from all over the world. We’re also a city of immigrants from all over this country, and some times it’s those who are newer who see our beauty and see our greatness most clearly. And I think Fred’s a great example of that, so he’s done—let’s give him another round of applause. I knew you had to get it out of your system, so I wanted to give you that second chance.

You know, there’s been such a dynamic team—a creative team that has been in the leadership of this organization. I want to thank them all: Bryan Grimaldi, Kevin Booth, Kelly Curtin, Willy Wong, Kimberly Spell, Chris Heywood, and Ed Hogikyan—I hope I said that properly, Ed. They’ve all had so much to do with the level of innovation and success that New York City & Company has achieved. And part of it is re-conceptualizing what this industry can mean, how it can be shaped, what it can mean for our whole city. And I’m a particular fan of the “Neighborhood by Neighborhood” program, because it showcases the outer boroughs—some people call it the “outer boroughs”. Some of the rest of us call it “home.”

It’s so important to bring this business, to bring these opportunities to where the majority of our people live, and that “Neighborhood by Neighborhood” program has done that. I’m also going to say I was so moved, not only in terms of our economy and tourism, but also in terms of the underlying meaning of the “Rainbow Pilgrimage,” which I think is a great example celebrating this city’s decisive role in the fight for the rights of LGBT people, and the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall, so that’s an incredible thing that New York City & Company achieved.

It is a complement to Fred that he is worthy of succeeding George Fertitta. Now, George: I had only a brief occasion to get to know, but the one long meeting I had with George, I became convinced in the course of that meeting that I needed to visit New York City. I had this overwhelming sense, this urgency that I had to go to New York City. I called the travel agency during the meeting, only to realize I was already there.

But—so it’s a real statement that when we’ve talked to people about who’s worthy of succeeding George, there was such enthusiasm for Fred, that you must be doing something right if you’re following in the footsteps of a legendary leader, and people feel you’re really ready for that, so I think it’s obvious the people in this room appreciate Fred, no what he’s capable of, know what kind of partnership he’ll create with all of you. And I want to tell you: all of us in city government, and certainly Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and I look particularly forward to working with Fred as he assumes this leadership

Now it is very fitting that Fred takes over, and he takes over here on this wonderful stage, which is one of the jewels of this city, and this is all Lincoln Center. And it epitomizes how particular we are. There’s a lot of great places in the world; there’s a lot of great places in this country. There’s something irreplaceable. There’s something particularly magnetic about this city, and it takes so many forms, and all of you know it, and all of you articulate that to the world. And I think New York City & Company has managed to, in a really extraordinary way, epitomize for people what this city is about, why it’s so special, why it is in fact so urgent for people to come here and experience it.

And you’ve done it part by doing things that people didn’t know could be done. I think the experience I had with Super Bowl Boulevard is a great example of this. I’m someone, I was saying this to Fred the other day, if you had said to me that you could put that kind of extraordinary event in the middle of Times Square and all along Broadway and that it would attract more visitors than the previous three Super Bowls combined had attracted at similar venues, I would have said it’s a beautiful idea. I’m not sure if it’s exactly logistically possible, but it’s a beautiful idea. Well, I went there with my family, and it was breathtaking. It was stunning. It was New York City at its best. I went up, and the Fox network built a whole studio in the middle of Times Square, from scratch, to capture what was going on. And I went up there in the studio and I looked out the window, getting the view that all of America was getting and I thought, you know, God Bless New York City and Company and everyone else involved because you could not have paid for the amount of advertising in effect we got, of all those viewers seeing the energy in Times Square constantly throughout those days in the background. So it’s that ambition, it’s that creativity, it’s that sense that we can do things that might have previously not seemed possible.

I do want to tell you because I’m a hands on mayor. I decided to experience the whole thing, so I brought an expert modern technology with me -- Dante de Blasio. He went to the XBox pavilion. He was able to experience it. I would not have known how to do any of it but he was all over it. He went to the field goal kicking pavilion. I was able, eventually, it took a number of tries but I was able to successfully kick a field goal. And then the whole family went on the Toboggan, which was, let me take a show of hands. Who here in this room went on the toboggan? The brave souls. I have just in the last days stopped feeling the effect of the toboggan. The toboggan is not meant for people of a certain age. I’d just like to share that. Moving forward, putting that memory behind me. The amazing thing about everything that this industry has achieved is that it is a constant now in our lives. It’s something that obviously a lot of us here know was a question mark once upon a time. Now, it’s a constant, a growing positive in our city, and nothing slows that down because of what all of you have done to build up such a head of steam. Even the weather we had in these last weeks. A lot of things got disrupted by weather, tourism has not. And where we worry about the impact, on our budget, for example, of the difficult January and February we had weather wise, tourism just kept coming along. Just kept deepening. Building up our economy, helping us to sustain and that is part of why it’s such a precious part of all we do. Obviously you’ve set some records in recent years. Fred intends to set some more. I want to encourage that worldview Cause there’s more we can do. We can build on the success. We have so much to offer.

And we know that we have some things we have to do in city government to keep that record setting capacity growing. I’m depending on all of you, I’m depending on the leadership of NYC and Company but the, the notion that the city government plays a crucial partnership role in this efforts is in my mind all the time. NYC and Company can promote in the most effective manner. But what people have to see on the ground is a safe city first and foremost. If this place is safe, as in an amazing 20 year history of us getting safer and safer all the time, if this city issafe all other things are possible. Now I gotta tell you I took that responsibility very very seriously when I was elected, and I’m proud to say I chose the best police leader in all of America, Bill Bratton, to be our police commissioner, and its paying off for the people of this city.

Now, we keep safe, we keep providing the services that make this city work, we do all we’re supposed to do in city government that allows all of you to do what you’re capable of doing in terms of making this place extraordinary for people, letting people know, promoting all that’s great about New York City. Now I also know there’s times when I have to help you with those promotional efforts, I’ve already started, I will be on Sunday evening appearing on the season premiere of the Good Wife. I’m not allowed, I’m under some kind of penalty by death if I speak about any of the details. But I will tell you there’s a tourism angle. Ok? If you can’t sleep between now and the Good Wife on Sunday night I understand what you’re feeling. We’re really looking forward to working with you, each and every one of you, working with NYC and company, we have not only the big goal of continuing to set records in terms of how many tourists that we receive, how long they stay here, something I know never crosses our mind, how much money they spend, that’s a record I want to keep building on.

We want to keep doing that, but there’s also examples of what we want to attain that can continue our growth. Obviously the Super Bowl was an amazing step forward. The NFL took a chance on a cold weather venue, I think it proved to be an incredibly smart bet. And New York City just so proudly held up it’s end of the bargain in terms of what was done here. But let’s go for some other things. How about next year we get the NBA All Star Game? And make the All Star Game the biggest its ever been of any of the All Star Games? How about we go after the Conventions in 2016? I prefer the Democratic Convention, personally, but the Republican convention would bring a lot of revenue too! So we’d welcome them. In a bipartisan spirit, they can both come here.

And there’s something else we have to think about, which is, as we deepen our efforts to improve and strengthen our tourism industry, I know everyone in this room has felt the commitment that George has had, Fred has had, to making this a five borough industry. I think you know enough about me to know that’s something I’m going to focus on all the time. We have so much more to offer in the outer boroughs that has just begun to be tapped. You know, when I see the tour buses go through Brooklyn, it gives me a thrill. Not long ago, that would have been a hard thing to believe we’d ever see. Well now it’s common place. Now I want to take the next step. I want folks to come to Brooklyn, spend a lot more time in Brooklyn, spend a lot more money in Brooklyn, stay longer, go to all of our amazing attractions, the same for Queens, the same for the Bronx, the same for Staten Island.

Fred told me about this wonderful emerging interest that’s taking so much more shape in the hip hop history of the Bronx. And look, we have so many things to be proud of in New York City, we literally gave birth to a whole genre of music. There’s so many people around the world who relate to that and care about it -- how can we make it a great blessing for the Bronx? And deepen the tourism industry there? How are we going to take the extraordinary new attraction that the Wheel will be in Staten Island and make it something that really deepens the stays that people spend on Staten Island and makes it an extraordinary focus point for development on Staten Island.  How do we take the incredible diversity of Queens, the foodies already know it, the foodies seem to be obsessed with Jackson Heights, have you noticed that?  You just sort of grab a random foodie on the subway, they’re probably going to Jackson Heights. How do we maximize that? We’re going to push very hard to do everything we can do from the perspective of City Hall to deepen that five borough focus in tourism.

And one last point. You know, I think people in this room, you know, you know what I stand for, what I care about. I want this to be a city of opportunity for all. This industry has already played such a crucial role in getting jobs for people who need that chance. We have to go one better. We have to find a way to reach even deeper, find folks who have not had opportunity. Let them find great opportunity in the tourism industry. We have to find a way to train more people, both through our public schools and other tools, to come into this industry to take advantage of it.

We have to find a way for folks who have not had advancement opportunities to get them through this industry. This is such a good news story, what’s been achieved over the years with tourism in this city. Let’s deepen it in a way that also makes it a part of a transcendence where more and more people feel they have opportunity, more and more people can touch that opportunity, and really get through a middle class lifestyle through this industry. I’ll often say, whatever our challenge is, our goal is to create one city that’s rising together. Once city where everyone knows they actually have that chance. This industry is one of the bright spots that can be that. And I think as we do that, the story of New York only deepens. Only becomes more powerful around the world as they watch our success. So I can say on behalf of all of us in City government, it will be a great great pleasure to work with all of you.  I can tell you with Fred, you’re going to have a leader of such energy and vision, that it’s going to make this work just continue to take off. And to everyone who’s a part of supporting NYC & Company, I say a profound thank you. Thanks so much.