June 17, 2012The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as prepared for delivery this morning in Brooklyn:
“Thank you, Reverend Bernard, and good morning. What a beautiful morning it is. I think all the dads out there deserve it, don’t you? Happy Father’s Day, dads! This is the one day of the year where I get to tell my two daughters what to do. In addition to this being Father’s Day – we’re just two days away from a great celebration of freedom, Juneteenth, and three days ago was another celebration of our freedoms, Flag Day.
“I had the honor of welcoming President Obama to our city to help mark it. We attended a ceremony with Governors Cuomo and Christie topping off the 104th floor of One World Trade Center, which is now the tallest building in the city. It was a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come since the attacks of 9/11, and how determined we remain to show the terrorists that they did not – and cannot – defeat us.
“Thank God – and thanks to the incredible work of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD – we have not been attacked again. But sadly, since that terrible day, more than twice as many people have been murdered in our streets than died on 9/11.
“We are the safest big city in the country – but we are not safe enough. We can never be safe enough. And I know very parent, grandparent, and guardian especially feels that way. We love our children so much. And since this is Father’s Day, I’d like to share with you what we’re doing as a city to keep our children out of harm’s way.
“First – and most important – we have dramatically improved school safety. When I came into office, far too many public schools were dangerous. Violence was out of control. You can’t expect children to learn in an environment where they have to think more about their safety than their subjects. That’s why, when we won control of the school system and disbanded the broken old Board of Education. Dennis Walcott and I agreed that a top priority would be improving school safety.
“And over the past decade, we’ve cut crime in half. That has spared thousands of children from violence. And just as importantly: it’s helped keep thousands of children from falling behind and dropping out. That’s one reason why high school graduation rates are now 40 percent higher than they used to be.
“The second way we’re working to keep our kids safe is to help more troubled teens get their lives back on track. We’ve created programs that offer more intensive supervision and support to teens who have been arrested – so they stay out of trouble. And it’s worked. There has been a 23 percent drop in the number of juveniles who are re-arrested while their cases are pending. We’re also keeping more of them out of detention facilities.
“This year, we worked with Governor Cuomo to pass a bill in Albany that will allow more juvenile offenders to receive services in their home communities – instead of being sent to failing facilities upstate. When they’re upstate, they’re disconnected from their families, their schools, and the community leaders who can help them. We’re going to bring more of them home – closer to their families. And we’re going to get them the intensive services and support they need.
“This work has all become part of something we call the Young Men’s Initiative. It’s the nation’s first comprehensive effort to help black and Latino youth overcome the odds and succeed. To get it off the ground, George Soros gave $30 million, Bloomberg Philanthropies gave $30 million, and the City is adding another $67 million. Our goal is to connect more young men to school and work – so we can, once and for all, erase the racial disparities that have plagued our country for too long.
“The third major way that we’re working to protect our kids is by making our streets safer than ever. Over the past decade, I’m glad to say, we’ve cut crime by 34 percent. And I’ll tell you what that 34 percent really means.
“It means that if total crime from this past decade had been the same as the decade before, there would have been an additional 5,600 people murdered over the past 10 years, and many of them, sadly, would have been young people, especially young men. And when you consider that 90 percent of all murder victims are black and Hispanic, there is no doubt most of those victims would have come from communities like this one.
“Thank God they were all saved – and they weren’t the only ones. When crimes aren’t committed, people don’t go to jail. That’s why today, there are 30 percent fewer city residents behind bars.
“Let me try to put that number in perspective: It means that over the past decade, there were 216,000 times when people did not engage in criminal acts and did not end up behind bars. Instead, they’re leading productive lives in their communities. Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, the number of people behind bars has actually gone up – by 6 percent.
“So not only has New York City had a steeper decline in crime than the rest of the nation, but we did it while decreasing incarceration by 30 percent, unlike in the rest of the country, where rates have increased 6 percent.
“Now, one of the most important ways that we’ve been able to cut crime brings us to the fourth and final way we’re working to protect our kids: keeping illegal guns off the street. We’re tackling this problem from every direction.
“We’ve formed partnerships with members of the clergy who work with their local precinct on efforts like gun buy-back programs. We’ve passed laws increasing penalties for those who carry a loaded illegal gun. We’ve worked to stop the flow of illegal guns to our city from states like Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio by going there and conducting undercover stings. And when we’ve caught gun dealers selling illegally, we’ve gone after them. We’ve also formed a bi-partisan coalition of more than 600 mayors from around the country to push Washington to pass common sense changes to our gun laws.
“And we’ve also sent a message to criminals: if we suspect you may be carrying a gun, we will stop you. Through those stops, the police have recovered thousands of guns over the past decade – and tens of thousands of other weapons. There is no doubt those stops have saved lives.
“Now, I understand why some people want us to stop making stops. Innocent people who are stopped can be treated disrespectfully. That is not acceptable. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you deserve nothing but respect and courtesy from the police. Police Commissioner Kelly and I both believe we can do a better job in this area – and he’s instituted a number of reforms to do that.
“We believe that when it comes to making stops – to borrow a phrase from President Clinton – the practice should be mended, not ended. That work has already begun, and Commissioner Kelly has said that he fully expects the number of stops to decline in the months ahead.
“Commissioner Kelly and I are both committed to improving police-community relations. In recent months, I’ve held dozens of meetings with community leaders and New Yorkers of all ages about police–community relations. I talked with Reverend Bernard numerous times. My door is always open to ideas and information.
“Just this past week, I met with Reverend Sharpton and others who disagree with me on this issue, because I know that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and that we have to keep talking with one another. And we will continue to talk to one another because this is one city, and we are all in this together.
“Here in this house of worship, and in churches and synagogues across the city, we’ve all heard the words: We are our brother’s keeper. Those words have real life meaning. They carry real life responsibilities. And if they are ignored, they hold tragic consequences. That was true for man’s first days on earth, and it is true for ours.
“I cannot in good conscience walk away from work that I know will save the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, and I will not.
“But neither will I turn a blind eye to the indignities that innocent people endure. We will not choose between safety and civility. We must demand both – and we will. That is my pledge to you, as your servant. We can’t do any less for our children.
“No parent should ever have to bury a child because of violence on the streets. I cannot imagine the pain they feel. But I have seen it. I’ve seen it too often. And I’m sure many of you have too. And when we can do something to stop it, we must.
“If we stand together for safety and civility, instead of walking away from one or the other, we can stop more of that heartbreak, we can continue to make our city stronger than ever, and we can create a city that our children can be proud of. Thank you, God bless – and have a safe and happy Father’s Day.”
Stu Loeser / Marc La Vorgna