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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray Deliver Remarks at Gracie Mansion's Puerto Rican Heritage Event

June 7, 2017

First Lady Chirlane McCray: Good evening everyone! We’re here tonight to celebrate you. So do you mind if I try this in Spanish? Alright.

[First Lady Chirlane McCray speaks in Spanish]

Mayor Bill de Blasio: [Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

I want you to know that Chirlane just changed my name to Bill when she said it. Everyone, I want to tell you I know our First Lady – our First Lady has to go on to another important event but I just want to tell you that phone number she told you, that phone number she told you I want to also share it with you in English 1-8-8-8-NYC-WELL. 1-8-8-8-NYC-WELL is a gateway to help for a lot of people who need it in this city. And what Chirlane has done with ThriveNYC, opening up the opportunity for help and for care for folks who have mental health challenges and substance challenges is making a huge difference in our city already. Let’s thank our First Lady for all she is doing.

[Applause]

Mayor: And I want to welcome everyone to Gracie Mansion. We love, we love this gathering each year because it marks one of the most important days in the year in this city when we celebrate 700,000 Puerto Ricans who make New York City great every day.

[Applause]

Mayor: And I want to talk to you about a couple of things tonight, but I know we have a very special guest who also has a schedule she has to meet, and I want to turn to her now. You know, four years ago this city took a big step forward, for the first time in the history of New York City we had a citywide official who came from Puerto Rico. The first time in our history, and for four years I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to partner with Melissa Mark-Viverito in the work of this City. And she had the weight of history on her as the first Puerto Rican citywide official, but I have to tell you, she has done outstanding job as Speaker of the City Council and I know not only are all Puerto Ricans proud of her work, but New Yorkers across the board are as well. My please to present to you the Speaker of the City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito.

[…]

Alright, now, that was an extraordinary example of a young woman. You know Laurie Hernandez is 17 years old. Isn’t it amazing what she has achieved? Give her one more round of applause.

[Applause]

Now, look, I’m going to bring up an honoree in just a couple of minutes but I want to talk to you for a minute. So, everyone, we’re going to keep the party going but first I need to talk to you about something serious for a minute. So, join with me.

You know, this city, when something happens in Puerto Rico, we feel it right here, right?

Audience: Yes!

Mayor: It’s personal for all of us, right?

Audience: Yes!

Mayor: 700,000 proud Puerto Ricans, as I said, but also the culture of New York City, the history of New York City shaped so deeply by our Puerto Rican community. And now we watch what’s happening in Puerto Rico and it pains us, doesn’t it?

Audience: Yes!

Mayor: To see our government in Washington D.C. ignoring, every day, the plight of three-and-a-half million Puerto Ricans. It’s happening before our very eyes. Three-and-a-half million. And wherever I go I say it’s this simple – the health care system is falling apart, the economy is falling apart, and there’s a Zika crisis. What else does Washington need to see to actually care about the people of Puerto Rico? Shouldn’t that be more than enough?

By the way, did I mention, there are fellow Americans – our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters on the island are our fellow Americans. Now, what if this crisis was not happening in the island of Puerto Rico? What if it was happening in Connecticut?

Audience: In New York?

Mayor: What if it was happening in New York? What if it was happening in California? Do you think Washington would dare to ignore three-and-a-half million Americans in crisis?

We got to be real about this. And this is what we need to create the attention on for the whole country – three-and-a-half million people who are being treated as less than the rest of us. That’s what’s happening.

They are not being recognized. They are not being given the respect. They’re not being given the support they need.

My dear friends, this is because of race and this is because of class.

[Applause]

Let’s be very clear about it. Hard-working people in Puerto Rico not getting the support they deserve. If this crisis was in Connecticut, the help would already have arrived, don’t you think?

Audience: Yes!

Mayor: If it was happening in Greenwich instead of San Juan, the help would have already gotten here, right?

Audience: Yes!

Mayor: Let’s be clear, we can’t accept an intolerable situation and we all have to band together across the country. Three-and-a-half million in Puerto Rico but, my friends, when you add up all of the Puerto Ricans in the 50 states – five million strong, a powerful voice in this nation including more and more in places like Florida, right?  And everyone pays attention to Florida, don’t they?

So, everyone has to forge together – an alliance to defend Puerto Rico. It doesn’t matter what party you are, it doesn’t matter what borough you’re from or even what state you’re from. We have a common interest to support the people of Puerto Rico and not accept the status quo.

So, this week is a chance for us to focus those energies and demand of Washington the same thing we would ask for any other part of the United States of America. It’s as simple as that isn’t it?

Audience: Yes!

[Applause]

Mayor: My friends, before I bring up my honoree, I just want to say in this week of celebration we want in this city to show how it should be done. We don’t believe that one group of people should suffer while another does well. We don’t believe that when there’s a crisis in one community, the rest of us should turn away. 

We think we’re all in this together, don’t we?

We believe this is our city, all of us, and its greatness is because it’s made up of all of us.

So, here, if one person is in trouble it means we’re all in trouble. Here we believe in having each other’s backs and the Puerto Rican community here has made this city proud in so many ways.

Let’s take that pride, let’s that strength, and together let’s reach a helping hand to our hermanos y hermanas in Puerto Rico who need us right now. 

[Applause]

Now, this wonderful week where we celebrate the community, we have a chance to celebrate some people who have made us very, very proud. And there is an actress I’m going to bring forward who has done wonderful work. She is a proud Puerto Rican. She was born in Brooklyn. She grew up in Queens. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?

She has a history of showing us new and edgy and creative roles that expand our sense of what culture is, of what entertainment is. She’s been an innovator. 

And she’s also helped to show that Latinas belong in a lot of roles that used to not allow Latinas in them. She’s been a trailblazer.

So, we’re proud of her for her work in Oz. We’re proud of her for her work in New York Undercover. We’re even proud of her for her work in Dexter, even though that show’s a little warped.

[Applause]

It’s my honor to present to you Luna Lauren Vélez.

[Applause]

Now, come on up here. Before you speak – okay, Luna –

[Applause]

Now, Luna, this is an important moment in your life, Luna. This is an important moment. It’s not just that you’re being honored at Gracie Mansion. It’s not just that you have hundreds of adoring fans. It’s that this proclamation says a lot of nice things about you and all you’ve achieved.

And then at the bottom says – this important part here, it says, “I, Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, do hereby proclaim Wednesday, June 7th in the City of New York as Luna Lauren Vélez Day.”

[Applause]

Step forward and receive your praise.

[...]

Come on, give her a bigger applause than that.

[Applause]

There we go.

So, everyone, before we go tonight, I want to introduce – there’s a lot of people who wanted to be here. It’s such a special event each year. I want to introduce the people standing behind me who do so much for this city. I want you to give them a warm round of applause.

First of all, my wonderful Commissioner of Probation, Ana Bermúdez – a proud Puerto Rican woman.

[Applause]

Our Commissioner for Community Affairs, Marco Carrión.

[Applause]

My Senior Advisor, Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez.

[Applause]

Director of Scheduling Prisca Salazar-Rodriguez.

[Applause]

Wow, Prisca has got a fan club.

Alright, I gave the Puerto Ricans top billing –

[Laughter]

But now I’m going back to rank for a moment. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Herminia Palacio.

[Applause]

Our Small Businesses Commissioner, Gregg Bishop.

[Applause]

Our Human Resources Administrator, Grace Bonilla.

[Applause]

Commissioner for the Office to Combat Domestic Violence, Cecile Noel.

[Applause]

Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Roxanna John.

[Applause]

My Deputy Chief of Staff, Rachel Lauter.

[Applause]

My Counsel, Paul Rodriguez.

[Applause]

Chief Service Officer of New York City, Paula Gavin.

[Applause]

The Executive Director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy – Paul Gunther.

[Applause]

Director of Special Events – they do these wonderful events, Carla Matero.

[Applause]

Our Commissioner Chief Judge of OATH, Fidel Del Valle.

[Applause]

And the First Deputy Commissioner for the Health Department, Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

[Applause]

And we have elected officials here. We want to honor and thank them. Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda.

[Applause]

Wow, very good, very good. Good applause meter.

And Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

[Applause]

And – hold on – oh, yes, I also want to say we – I think we have another mayor from Puerto Rico with us. Mayor Pedro García Figueroa of Hormigueros. 

[Applause]

And finally I need a big round of applause for the musicians this evening, Los Hermanos de Leon. We thank them for the great, great job they did. 

Muchísimas gracias a todos!

[Applause]
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