May 18, 2017

Governor Cuomo Launches Landmark $20 Billion Plan to Combat Homelessness and Create Affordable Housing For All New Yorkers

Governor Cuomo Launches Landmark $20 Billion Plan to Combat Homelessness and Create Affordable Housing For All New Yorkers
Governor Signs Legislation Delivering $2.5 Billion to Advance the Construction and Preservation of More Than 110,000 Units of Affordable and 6,000 Units of Supportive Housing Over the Next Five Years Action Plan Provides $7.5 Billion to Combat Homelessness and Support Shelter Programs for our Most Vulnerable Residents in New York City Invests $125 Million in New Housing for Seniors; $75 Million to Improve Mitchell-Lama Properties Across New York State

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched a landmark $20 billion, five-year plan to combat homelessness and advance the construction of affordable housing in New York State. The action plan is made possible by the release of $2.5 billion in capital funding delivered in the FY 2018 Budget which will create and preserve more than 110,000 units of affordable and 6,000 units of supportive housing over the next five years. This marks the largest investment in the creation and preservation of affordable housing and efforts to end homelessness in the history of New York. For more information on the action plan, click here.

VIDEO of the remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h264 format) here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Speaker’s remarks and the Governor’s remarks is available below.

Speaker Heastie: Well this is a historic day and for us, we feel that access to affordable housing is an issue that affects every part of this state, especially here in New York City. Providing housing opportunities that are truly affordable for hardworking New Yorkers across the economic spectrum is a cornerstone of the Assembly Family First agenda. We’re here to celebrate the five-year $2.5 billion capital plan, which when fully leveraged, will produce the Governor’s $50 billion capital plan which he will speak about a few minutes later. But this is something that was wholeheartedly championed by my colleagues in the Assembly and I know that two of them were recognized earlier. And then this capital plan will provide funding for low income housing, new senior housing in retirement communities, multi-family new construction, NYCHA capital repairs and capital support for public housing authorities across the state and I do see one of our NYCHA presidents, Robert Hall, is here. So I want to acknowledge him. Mitchell-Lama preservation, tenant protection services, and homeownership programs. New York has one of the highest costs of living in the nation and it takes a dedicated effort to prevent the rise of homelessness.

I really want to thank my Assembly colleagues for their commitment, you know, just so we’ve been talking about what’s been going on in Washington. Everyone says health care should be an undeniable right. Housing should be an undeniable right to people as well. And before I introduce the Governor I do want to say to Gary and to all the members of the Trades that we made a commitment to you and we had long been passing prevailing wage legislation that if there was going to be a housing deal that the Assembly would not support it unless there was not also a wage deal so I do want to congratulate Gary and John Banks. And finally I want to thank the Governor, while I introduce him. You know Gary mentions that he’s the greatest governor in the history of the state. I may differ a little bit because his father spoke at my college graduation so I think I kind of favor one of the other Governor Cuomos a little more because this one didn’t speak at my college graduation. But I do want to thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue, housing. And so many times people had pressed and pushed us and pushed us and wondered if the housing money was ever going to be released. And even though it seemed like the housing money was a backdrop to the other things that we were negotiating in the budget, the Governor and I actually stood strong in making sure we had this because we know how important housing is and how expensive housing is, particularly here, in the city of New York. So it is my pleasure and my honor to introduce, as Gary says, the greatest Governor in the country and the second greatest Governor in the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, what a great, great day and this is a day that is going to go down in the history books and I’m so glad to be part of it. First to Speaker Carl Heastie, I’m not going to get involved in who’s a better Governor, me or my father. I question the Speaker on that, you’re going to see a lightning bolt come right through this stage and strike me dead right here. Plus if I ever tried to say I was better than my father, my mother would disinvite me from the home forever. So I will gladly take second to Mario Cuomo. I’ll have more to say about the Speaker later on but the Speaker has done a really fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. What makes our government in New York special, what makes our state government special is not that we don’t have the same political pressures that are happening all across the country. The same wind that blows in Washington blows in New York. So we have the same political pressure.

We have a different belief and a different priority. Our job is to serve the people of the state of New York, not to play to politics. We’re going to get the job done at the end of the day. That’s what we have always done. We have delivered for the people of the state, we make the government work. We make it function, and that doesn’t happen without Carl Heastie. Give him another round of applause.

Talk about history, Gary LaBarbera is going to go down in the history books as one of the greatest labor leaders in the history of the state of New York. It’s a pleasure to be with you. And to Brenda Rosen, who runs a great facility, she’s a great advocate, a great provider, thank you so much for having us today. Thank you, Brenda.

You know, a couple of quick points and then we’re going to sign the bill and we’re going to get down to business. When you serve in government, in many ways, the job is to do what needs to be done at the time. I’m governor of New York at this time. I believe the most important function, or one of the most important function that I can fullfil, is literally working with the legislature to rebuild New York. The truth is, we have allowed the infrastructure, the roads, the bridges, the tunnels, the subway system in New York, to crumble. Think back. When was the last time we built a bridge? When was the last time you did a major renovation of the subway? When was the last time you did anything at an airport?

We are living off the legacy of not our parents, of our grandparents. Now we’re paying the price because the infrastructure is no longer competitive. It can’t handle the volume. You’re flying to airports all across the world and they magnificent, then you fly into LaGuardia. You feel like staying on the plane, saying take me to another city. JFK, pick up somebody at JFK. I will pay anyone anything to drive to JFK and pick someone up instead of me having to drive to JFK. Our subway system, what’s wrong with the subway? New York Times, close up: What do you think is wrong with the subway? What do you think is wrong with the subway! It hasn’t been invested in 50 years. It’s handling five times the volume it was designed for. It’s been ignored, it’s been abused. That’s what’s wrong with the subway.

So we are building. We’re doing more building, $100 billion. What is $100 billon? The largest building program in the history of the state of New York. You see it everywhere, and we’re going to do it fast. These are not going to be government jobs, these ribbons are not going to be cut by my grandchildren. We’re getting them done now, we’re getting them done fast, we’re getting them done efficiently. New JFK, new LaGuardia, Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Triborough Bridge. Everywhere you go, largest investment in the city subway system in the history of the subway system.

Every dollar and every project is all union construction. Now, of all the construction, probably the piece that rings truest for me is our housing construction. Why? Because housing construction is about humanity. I started my career building housing for the homeless when I was in my 20s, ran a not-for-profit called HELP that literally used to take people out of welfare hotels. At that time, the Martinique Hotel, which I remember walking through in my 20s and it could make you physically sick walking through the Martinique Hotel. It was like a bad scene from a Dickens novel. It smelled of urine, it smelled of pain, it smelled of anguish. Hallways filled with hypodermic needles at that time.

We built housing and we got people out of welfare hotels and into safe, clean, decent housing. I was HUD secretary, housing and urban development under Bill Clinton – building housing all across the country. New public housing. We made such a mistake with public housing, we built ghettos in this country. We wanted to take care of the poor and people wanted to do it as quickly as possible so they built this high concentration and high density, of all this housing in one area, no services, no transportation, and you literally built a ghetto and then we had to go back and figure it out. But, housing is the building block of society. Housing is the building block of family. Housing is the building block of community, and housing at its most basic, providing shelter, is safety for individuals and for families.

So today we announce a $20 billion housing program. What does that mean? That is the largest housing program in the history of the state of New York. That’s what a $20 billion housing program is. And it is a comprehensive program. It has affordable housing so working families can actually afford to live in the city that they work. It has funding so that we can redo the vacant buildings that are pulling down so many communities. Housing funds to stop the foreclosures that are happening over, and over, and over again. And it has $7 billion to help the homeless and provide shelters and run shelters and let people lead different lives.

And we are in a formally homeless facility today and it tells the story that we should have more homeless people in this city than ever before is a shame and a scandal. Homelessness is not something that we don’t know how to solve. We know how to solve it. This is not a new problem. This is not a novel problem. I said I started it in my 20s. During the Dinkins administration, Mayor Dinkins put me in charge of a commission with George McDonald who is here, to come up with a plan on how to handle the city’s homeless. And we came up with a plan on how to help the homeless, and it had the full arrange, continued care, shelters, transitional services, providing the assistance you need – ultimately to affordable housing. We then took that plan to Washington, Bill Clinton made HUD Secretary, I took the same plan I did for the city of New York, changed the cover, called it the plan for the nation and we implemented it nationwide. We know how to do it. It is a question of political will, resources and the management of the system. That’s all it is.

Can we do it? Look around you. This was a welfare hotel. This was a homeless hotel. This is one of the warehouses where we used to take people with a lot of needs and put them all into the warehouse and then leave them alone. Not understanding, what do you think is going to happen when you take people with drug problems, mental health problems, domestic violence – you stick them all together, you put them in a building, you close the door and you walk away. You make the situation worse. You wound up hurting people rather than helping people and you wound up spending a lot of money. What is smart? This is smart. Forget the welfare hotels, forget the warehouses. Bring in a provider who knows what they need to do. Give people the services they need. If you’re mentally ill, you need services. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, you need services. If you need help finding a job, you need services. Give them the services they need. And treat them with decency and humanity.

We are past the point, we are past the point where we argue for a person’s right to sleep on the sidewalk and sleep on the street. Nobody wants to sleep on the street. They really don’t. If they do, it means they have an issue that they’re working through, and address the issue. So look at this beautiful facility today. 400 units, people receiving services, it’s a good neighbor to the community, it’s helping people, it’s an investment for the taxpayer. It’s funding, political will, and management, and we have $7 billion that’s going to go to provide housing for the homeless over the next five years.

What does $20 billion mean? It means 110 thousand affordable units over the next 5 years. It means 6 thousand supported units over the next five years. And it means $7 billion for homeless care over the next five years. The $20 billion is then leveraged by the 2.5 billion in capital that we’ve been waiting to release from the Legislature and we’re going to sign right now, and then my friends we will be embarking on the largest affordable housing program in the history of the State of New York. How exciting is that?

I want to say, I want to say that people think as Governor you have a magic wand. You don’t have a magic wand. I do have a large stick I keep behind my desk, but that’s only because I’m a guy from Queens and you always have a stick next to the desk. The New York State Assembly was a champion, an advocate, a crusader for the housing program from day one. We did not have a meeting in Albany to talk about the budget to talk about the agenda, where the Speaker did not say affordable housing ten times. I thought he had a speech defect he said it so many times in the meeting. But it does not happen without the Assembly being adamant that they won’t pass a budget without affordable housing. Let’s ask the Assembly members who are here to please stand, and let’s give them a big round of applause.

Part of this housing program was as you heard from Gary the discussion of 421-a. The discussion of 421-a wasn’t just about housing, it was broader than that. It was, will New York State pass a program that excludes the unions from participation? That’s what the question was. And it was a very short discussion in Albany. Carl Heastie said no how, no way, not while I’m speaker of the New York State Assembly. And we have a 421-a program that, like every other program we’ve discussed today, pays a union wage. We’re going to go to work with union jobs, union quality, union safety, and union apprentices.

Last point, last point is this, because with all these union people here I’m afraid we’re stopping jobs all across the city, while we’re sitting here talking. But last point is this. This could not come at a more important time in this state’s history. Why? Because everything we’re talking about this morning, the federal government is talking about the exact opposite. They are going in the exact opposite direction. We’re talking about working together. We’re talking about legislative progress. They’re talking about partisan politics, they’re talking about gridlock, and they’re seeking to impose an ultra-conservative philosophy which is repugnant to everything we believe in New York.

And what their ultra-conservative philosophy says is very simple and it keeps coming back to two things: it’s about the private market and let the private market work, and government has no business interfering with the private market. So when you talk about housing, the discussion is simple: go buy a house if you want to buy a house. “Well I can’t afford a house.” Well, then rent a house. “Well I can’t afford to pay the rent.” Well, then move in with someone. A sister, a cousin, a brother, move in with someone. “Well, I have no one to move in to because they have small apartments and they can’t take my family in their apartment.” Well, then go to the church, or go to the synagogue, or go to a charity and ask for charity.

That’s their answer to everything. To everything. When they used to talk about the thousand points of light, right? Let the private market work, and if the private market doesn’t work, then you go to the thousand points of light, which are all these charities and they will take care of you. We say we have a different view. The private market doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t help everyone. The gods of the private market are not our god. We don’t follow that god. And we believe when the private market fails, that we have a collective responsibility to help one another.

God bless charities, and God bless the churches and the religious organizations and volunteer organizations. But it’s too much for them to handle. They cannot help sixty five thousand homeless families. That’s OUR collective responsibility. That’s society’s responsibility and that’s what we do through a collective vehicle and the collective vehicle is government. It is that simple, and we’re talking about two different philosophies and night and day and they’re going this way and we’re going that way.

And you know what, our Bible, and what the federal government should be doing, was written by a great New Yorker, a great New York governor, FDR, who said, basically, “I don’t care how those at the top are doing. And I don’t care how the millionaires are doing and the billionaires are doing. That’s not how we quantify success. It’s how the people on the bottom are doing, which really tells you whether or not you are a success.” The ill-fed, the ill-clothed, the ill-housed, the insecure. And until you can look in the mirror and say we are all doing well, then none of us are doing well. That’s the New York credo.

Let’s sign the bill. Thank you, God bless you.