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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at the Fall 2014 Somos El Futuro Conference Reception

November 8, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much. I have to tell you that I have been working with Felix for years. And he is someone – years and years I've seen clearly some of the changes we need to make – he's had an impact not only in the city of New York, and the state of New York – beyond, with his work nationally.

And I give him – whoa. Hold on. Wardrobe malfunction.

[Laughter]

Good? I give him tremendous credit for his leadership as chairman of Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force. He keeps making this organization stronger with every year. Let's thank him for his tremendous leadership. Felix, thank you.

[Applause]

It is especially important that, tonight, we're giving back to this extraordinary island, helping people in need. We thank all the sisters who are here tonight for the extraordinary work they do, and it's good that we're supporting their work. Let's thank them for the beautiful things they do for the people of [inaudible]

[Applause]

And, as Felix said, part of what happens at Somos is we connect to the people of Puerto Rico. We have such a profound understanding as New Yorkers that New York would not be all it is today if it weren't for the contributions of the Puerto Rican people over the last century that have made New York so strong, so vibrant. We owe a debt of gratitude to Puerto Rico for making New York great.

[Applause]

And we have to deepen our connection. So today, with Felix, with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and so many of the other leaders here – we went to Caño Martín Peña to see a neighborhood in distinct need, that deserves help from our federal government. And it doesn't matter if the injustice of those 27,000 residents of that neighborhood – the injustice they're living with, it doesn't matter if it's hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the five boroughs – it's our business too, because these are our people too. And we have to stand up for them. And it was an honor to be with Felix and with so many of you, in defense of the people of that neighborhood, calling on our federal government to remember its obligation to Puerto Rico as well. Stand up for that.

[Applause]

I want to thank all my colleagues, all the elected officials who are here tonight, and here, part of this conference. I want to thank my fellow citywide elected official Tish James for her leadership. She's here somewhere.

[Applause]

Thank you Tish. I want to say, as some people used to be elected officials, and we still appreciate their contributions. I want to thank Freddy Ferrer for all he did for this city.

[Applause]

And here, on this island, it's been a tough last year, but leaders have stood up, and are turning the tide in Puerto Rico and making it stronger than ever. I saw Governor Garcia earlier. I am so impressed by his leadership, and so thrilled to have with us the President of the Senate Eduardo Bhatia. His great leadership is turning this island, making it stronger all the time. Thank you, Mr. President.

[Applause]

You will never have to wear a tuxedo again in our city or state.

[Laughter]

Entoncés –

Buenas noches a todos! Es un placer estar aquí con ustedes otra vez. A Chirlane y a mi nos encantan nuestras visitas a la hermosa isla de Puerto Rico – un lugar que tiene un sitio muy especial en nuestros corazones. Nos encanta el paisaje, el clima, la comida y, sobre todo – la gente de Puerto Rico.

[Applause]

Now, if I may speak a less elegant language, I will tell you that 20 years ago, Chirlane – 22 years ago – 22 years ago, Chirlane and I were still in the first year of our relationship – and you know when you start out dating someone, you're trying to figure out where it goes – one of the ways you find out, if this is actually the love of your life, is you go on a big vacation somewhere, you go on a big trip – so we came to Puerto Rico.

And to everyone at the tourism board, I want to say thank you, because we visited one parador after another. We fell in love with the paradores. We had – and by the way, the paradores were the only things we could afford at that time in my life.

[Laughter]

And, la isla de encanta is true – we fell in love, we were enchanted by this beautiful place. It deepened our love. And we keep coming back and coming back. It reminds us of what it was like to first find the love in each other, and we just have a profound love for this place and its people. And we love being here with all of you.

[Applause]

A year ago, I had the honor of being here, just days after being elected your mayor, and we talked about the vision ahead. And Chirlane and I really looked forward to coming to this conference. It would be the first opportunity to really speak to people after the election, and start talking about the road map. And we gained such encouragement from so many leaders, so many activists here – elected officials, and labor leaders, and civic leaders who said, let’s do this. I think some people used the phrase – I heard it once – “Sí, se puede” – and I just heard it. Sounded like a good phrase – Sí, se puede.

So, we had a sense of real support and real belief here. We talked about what had to change. And we talked about the fact that it began with having leaders in the administration that looked like all of New York City. And this administration today is filled with such extraordinary leaders and I’m going to name some because I’m so proud of them – our Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli; our Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña; our Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner Gladys Carrión, who is a force of nature; our Film and Television Office director, Cynthia López; our design and construction commissioner – who is an incredible leader – Feniosky Peña-Mora, who is helping to build the city of New York every day; and here with us tonight, the commissioner of our Community Affairs Unit, Marco Carrión. These are great leaders in this administration.

[Applause]

And we are continuing to build the administration, and with your help, we’re going to recruit more and more people from all of the communities of New York City to make this administration stronger and stronger. Now we said a year ago, we needed to create a city of opportunity for all. We said a year ago that we had to this quickly and intensely. So, in the first 10 months, we passed the expansion of paid sick leave to over a million more people and that matters to the Latino and Puerto Rican communities deeply.

Soon, we will have municipal ID cards for all New Yorkers, regardless – regardless of where they come from, regardless of documentation status – as a message of respect and inclusion for all. That is the vision we have of this city.

[Applause]

And we like to do things that are for everyone – so, our affordable housing plan, 200,000 units over the next ten years so people can live in the city they love, and the neighborhoods they love. And our pre-k for all – next year, every four-year-old in New York City will be guaranteed full-day quality pre-k.

[Applause]

And so much of that is because of people here tonight. All of these changes don’t happen accidently. They don’t happen just because you elect a single leader. Elections do matter. They make a huge difference. But the change happens because people work for the change. They organize for the change. They make their voices heard in Washington, and Albany, and City Hall. Everyone in this room participated in those victories. And there are more to come, to make it a city that’s truly for everyone. So, we come here each year. We remember – Chirlane and I remember – love and joy. We come here to become encouraged and energized by each and every one of you. We come here to renew our partnership to make it a more just city for all. And I thank you for that, from the bottom of my heart. Muchas gracias a todos.

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